I’d vote for any politician running for the Democratic Party even though it’s a party that engenders ambivalent feelings. And those feelings reappear in Brittany Huckabee’s documentary How to Fix A Primary..It’s about the 2018 Michigan gubernatorial primary. It specifically follows Abdul El-Sayed. As an aside, there are more countries that have figured out, relatively, how a multi-party system works. The United States, notoriously, is not one of those countries. This is why El-Sayed, reluctantly or otherwise, is a Progressive running as a Democrat. The documentary, then, shows the hard work he must put in for voters to recognize his sincere policies.
Progressive politicians come from diverse backgrounds, which is something that their opponents use against them. El-Sayed’s most frustrating predictable roadblock are center and right wing people. They obtusely frame his progressiveness as something that comes into conflict against his faith. There’s a particular scene where he has to listen to questions about how Muslims pray. Huckabee’s camera is distant enough from El-Sayed in those scenes, capturing sense of chaos there. And it captures the face he puts on while enduring such remarks. There are also anonymous reports of his ‘ineligible’ candidacy. That problems is what he and his campaign has to fight for most of the film.
How To Fix A Primary isn’t just a documentary showing El-Sayed’s public appearances. Not it is just about his vulnerable moments that the camera captures. It also gives camera time to his campaign staff, like Max Glass. He’s the guy who has to both budget and strategize the eligibility attack against El-Sayed. Scenes like this show how this is a cut above most fictional films and some documentaries about political campaigns. Other films would exaggerate these scenes. There’d be a stronger score or any element turning some plot arcs into bigger challenges than they actually are. This documentary, presents its scenes as they are while letting its audience know what’s to come.
Although sometimes highlighting the politics that El-Sayed and Glass have to go through can hinder the documentary. Of course it has to give screen time to El-Sayed’s opponents and their flaws. There’s the lack of diversity in Gretchen Whitmer’s catchphrase-y campaign. Shri Thanedar, on the other hand, is corrupt enough to do things like people to petition for his candidacy. There’s a tendency here in which El-Sayed is becoming the least interesting person in his own documentary. But thankfully, he and his staff swoop back. They show themselves as a bunch of idealists who want to fix politics. To rid a flawed system of what’s wrong and corrupt about it.
Another aside, How To Fix A Primary is coming out to virtual cinemas and streaming services. And that release comes under the context of recent news. Trump’s tweets to ‘liberate Michigan’ prompted five men to plot to kidnap Whitmer, the documentary’s de facto villain. There’s an irony here where the far right sees her as a progressive just for existing. Meanwhile, this film shows that she’s more complicated than that. It also conjures an alternate universe where El-Sayed is the target of the same plot. He would have become a victim and a survivor of things bigger than what he went through during the film. Here’s to hoping that the political fix comes soon
- Rated: NR
- Genre: documentary
- Release Date: 10/20/2020
- Directed by: Brittany Huckabee
- Produced by: Brittany Huckabee
- Studio: Version One Productions
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