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Laramie Movie Scope:
Anytown, USA

A mayoral election (three candidates, two legally blind) and football in the fall

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(2005) In the 2003 mayoral election in Bogota, NJ, three candidates competed for the office. But how does one handicap a race in which two of the contestants are legally blind? In this tragicomic documentary, director Kristian Fraga follows the campaigns of Republican incumbent Steve Lonegan, an old pol Democrat (and former mayor called out of retirement) Fred Pesce, and one-time hometown high-school football star Dave Musikant, who runs as an independent write-in, as well tracking the fortunes of the Bogota Bucs football team.

Lonegan (retinal disease as a teenager) and Musikant (brain tumor and cancer survivor) are partially-sighted and, along with most of the 7,000-plus citizens, overweight; Pesce, with normal vision and the air of a gray eminence but looking like a member of the Mafiosi, is obese. Angry over cuts in the school budget, threatening the football program and closure of the school, a large segment of the population calls for Lonegan's head.

At the outset of the campaign, two months before votes are to be cast, the Bucs are trounced, inauspiciously losing their first game. The neoconservative Lonegan, popular among seniors, is confident of his prospects with a healthy campaign coffer as he goes door-to-door, accompanied by his running mates. Pesce with a small-budget approach and poor name recognition seems out of touch with the representatives of the electorate speaking on camera.

Unemployed and residing in his sister's basement, Musikant ("I have great vision inside my head") makes personal contacts over the phone and by walking alone from one neighbor to the next with his whitestick, asking for people's votes. A rumor alleges that Lonegan paid Musikant $20,000 to run as a means of drawing votes away from Pesce.

Lacking a website or even a cellphone, Musikant contacts Jesse "the Body" Ventura's one-time campaign manager Doug Friedline ("I like challenges"), saying he has $20,000 to spend, to take charge of his long-shot effort to oust Lonegan: "Free Bogota from the tyrant." Other than the question of the high school's continued existence (Lonegan laughs when someone quips, "Bucs aren't worth the bucks") and "high" taxes, the only message that arises from the mayor's opponents - most of whom say they don't like the mayor but don't know his political rivals - is that "Lonegan sucks."

Meanwhile, the "miracle Bucs" after their initial defeat put together a string of victories and offer volunteer services to Musikant. Dirty tricks, vandalism of yard signs, and clever yellow-pencil mascots advertising for Musikant highlight the final weeks preceding another rumor that Pesce is ailing and about to drop out of the contest. Pesce's wife denounces Musikant: "You're becoming like Lonegan!"

At the conclusion along with the dramatic denouement of the election and the Bucs' gridiron season, the film reveals further ironic and hapless fates - fatal and farcical - of the candidates.

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Copyright © 2011 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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