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Miami Herald – Anytown, USA Review

21 Sep

Miami Herald

“Big Race in Small Town Captures the Imagination”

By Martha Barber

Friday, November 3, 2006

‘Tis the season for politics. Give me me a bow to the Cosford Cinema for screening a film that reflects on the state of American politics the weekend before Election Day. Anytown, USA, directed by Kristian Fraga, follows the 2003 mayoral race in a tiny town in New Jersey, just a stone’s throw from the Big Apple. Bogota, with the accent on the second “o”, is described by one of its residents as somewhere between “Norman Rockwell and the Bronx”, but its political situation is as American as apple pie. Fraga begins filming a few weeks before the election, a bit early to tell the whole story, especially about the three contenders, but in good enough time to capture all the elements of a disputed election. Unintentionally funny, the film also carries the suspense of any election: who will win? But few people, even the most savvy political buff, will remember who was elected mayor of Bogota in 2003.

All seems to be quiet in Bogota until incumber two-time Mayor Steve Lonegan, a Republican, announces he’ll run again on a platform of reduced budgets and taxes. That may mean that the beloved high school, the home of the Bucs, may have to be integrated with the high school in a nearby town, which flares the passions of the town. Democrats ask Fred Pesce, a former mayor, to come out of retirement and help them defeat Lonegan. Pesce will do it for the good of the community but his commitment to winning the race doesn’t seem to be there.
In comes Dave Musikant, a former Bucs football hero whose loathing of Lonegan prompts him to run as an Independent. Problem is that it is too late to have him on the ticket, and the chances to win as a write-in are as far-fetched as winning the lottery. Musikant hears that Doug Friedline, the man who helped Jesse “The body” Ventura win his gubernatorial race, is always happy to help Independents. Friedline asks: “Is your name on the ballot?? Do you have a staff? Wil you be bale to collect $2o, 000?” Only the third question receives a positive answer, but Friedline accepts the challenge. A three-man race is about to get interesting.

As the camera follows the candidates, you begin to notice who has the qualifications to be mayor, but as we all know, in politics it is all abotu delivering the message. Interestingly enough, both Lonegan and Musikant, whose campaigns are followed more closely, are legally blind. You only learn about Pesce’s ailment at the end, which explains the Democrat’s lack of vision.

If it weren’t so serious for the people of Bogota, the election would draw laughter. Here are two legally blind men, one of them guided by The Body’s manager, and one complacent Democrat battling it out with all the fervor to win a high percentage of the less-than-2,000 registered voters of Bogota. And the tactic of personal attacks and use of hal-truths equal that of a presidential election.
Anytown, USA, bases its premise on famed Massachusetts politician and former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill’s saying, “All politics is local.”

Is what you see in the Bogota election a reflection of the political panorama of the nation? In Bogota, the Republican it the best organized and the richest, the Independent has the most passion and the Democrat lacks vision. Fraga makes us wonder.


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