At Manhattan’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School, students take the annual campus elections seriously—very seriously. Caroline Suh’s documentary follows four prospective senior-class presidents as they try to win the hearts, minds and votes of their fellow teens. As the campaigning begins, two candidates emerge as the front-runners. Hannah Freiman is a spunky redhead with a love for the thea-tah and an infectious can-do attitude. Her competitor, George Zisiadis, might have graduated summa cum laude from the Max Fischer School of Overachievers. A lanky Greek-American who runs a “lounge” by his locker, he’s not afraid to choose an Asian vice president to court the ethnic vote (defending his pick, he claims they have “synergistic amiability”) or ask loaded questions during a debate. Naturally, the wooing of the media and the ability to mouth empty rhetoric are more important than having a viewpoint on the issues at hand.
Suh’s look at these young politicos offers cute case studies on underage ambitiousness, but don’t mistake this for a microcosmic look at the larger arena of national elections. To reflect the current political climate, these students would need to mount vicious smear campaigns and repeat talking points that insult the intelligence of their electorate. Frontrunners is a decent chronicle of one small-scale local runoff; expect anything more, and you’ll feel like you’ve just entered the spin zone.