Kid Candidate | Review | SXSW Film Festival 2021


Photo Credit: Homero Salinas

Documentaries like Kid Candidate are a real treat. We go into small corners of the world to see local and communal stories that otherwise go untold. Hayden Pedigo is a musician, artist and now on the ballot for Amarillo's city council after a campaign video goes viral. 

We get to know Hayden through his lens and the quirky home movies he makes with his friends. We go into his home, meet his wife, and really see a portrait of Amarillo where Hayden is at the centre, having big ideas on how he'd like to see a change in the community.

Kid Candidate aims to speak to a generation "burnt out on politics," as Hayden emphasises multiple times and scathes the current political landscape of wealth and greed where poverty and unemployment are rising. The film is lead by the youth and community leaders who get overlooked by the system they live within as they highlight the faults within their community. Kid Candidate uniquely aims to represent a well-rounded view by including the Republican forces at hand, but it's where the film's message becomes slightly skewed. 

With a slim run time of 68 minutes, a documentary has to ground itself in its argument early to ensure than an audience understands where it's going. Kid Candidate misses this mark slightly but makes up for it in an engaging final act. Filmmaker Jasmine Stodel has multiple fascinating contributors. There are so many moments that deserved to be longer, the endearing but contentious relationship between Hayden and civil rights lawyer Jeff Blackburn, David Lovejoy and all his wisdom, the South Sudanese community and their get-togethers, the corruption from the Mayor right down to the council - all of these such powerful stories that warrant their own individual narratives. Hayden's story began to get lost among the intrigue of the people around him. He somewhat becomes a figurehead for the representation of a united community working towards restoration and compassion. 

Amarillo's backdrop is bleak. There are low prospects for young people. The town is littered with confederate iconography. It becomes the manifestation of all that has gone wrong for politics so far, and Hayden's admirable attempt to be the change he wants to see is simultaneously moving and upsetting. "Everybody dies, but not everybody lives" is a quote that nonchalantly tumbles from the city's Mayor near the end of the film. Those words unknowingly encapsulate the entire issue with the system. Everybody does live. This bizarre concept that your life has to extend beyond expectation for it to be considered "worth-living" is sheer toxicity. Stodel's film captures that essence by showing and giving voice to a community whose lives are vibrant and compelling, remaining hopeful amidst a cynical society.


Kid Candidate is a Gunpowder & Sky production, in association with XTR playing at SXSW Film Festival 2021.

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