Director, Skye Wallin on Hill TV’s “Rising”
“American Gadfly” is enjoyable as a chronicle of teenage idealism and its frustrations. (In Iowa, Oks bemoans the inefficiency of meeting and greeting voters.) Gravel, in his appearances, comes across as avuncular, eager to share ideas but even more eager to encourage young acolytes.
What happens when you mix politically conscious 18-year-olds, a retired senator of Alaska, and a progressive presidential campaign designed to pester the Democratic Party establishment on hot-button topics?
Well, the answer is a rollercoaster of a political campaign that started after two teenagers from Ardsley, New York made the unusual request to former Senator of Alaska, Mike Gravel, to run for president in 2020.
David Oks and Henry Williams, aptly named the “Gravel Teens,” formed an unlikely connection with the retired Alaskan senator, and tried to convince Gravel to run for president one last time.
For the teenage activists in Skye Wallin’s “American Gadfly” politics is not so much the art of the possible as it is the art of the implausible. Confronted by a world needing radical change, they seek out a Democratic presidential candidate who is somewhat to the left of Bernie Sanders. They learn about former Senator Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), who in 1971 read into the Congressional Record the Pentagon Papers — which revealed decades of lies by the government about the Vietnam War. He also ran a quixotic campaign for president, in 2008, and managed to land a spot in some of the Democratic debates. At 89, he agreed to campaign again with the kids in charge.
American Gadfly follows their quest to qualify the 88-year-old iconoclast for the Democratic primary debates. It was a blink-and-miss-it episode in the overall election cycle, which makes the deep dive the movie takes into the life of a fringe candidate all the more valuable. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like hobnobbing with and vying against the Tulsi Gabbards and John Delaneys of the world, then this one is definitely for you.
American Gadfly is so naturally charming that it is easy to overlook that the documentary is, ultimately, a dark comedy—and, what’s wrong with that, a spoonful of sugar, right? In an era when partisan politics are often preachy in tone, American Gadfly is both surprising and welcome—a voice that is friendly, easy-going and intelligent, yet still manages to address vital shortcoming of national elections, that they favor money and polls over true grassroots campaigns.
…sharp, nimble, with a great group of characters. It’s also by turns surprising, funny and, in our dark hour of democracy, inspiring.”