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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » See How They Run
See How They Run
Docurama // Unrated // November 25, 2003
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Shannon Nutt | posted December 26, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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THE MOVIE

See How They Run is a pretty enjoyable documentary about the 1999 mayoral race in San Francisco between incumbent mayor Willie Brown and openly gay opponent Tom Ammiano, who got to face off against Brown in a run-off election after coming in second in a November election in which Brown got the most votes but did not get 50 percent or more of the total.

The movie begins before Ammiano even announces his candidacy, with Brown going up against 12 others…only two of which pose any real threat to him: Frank Jordan, the former mayor whom Brown defeated in 1995; and Clint Reilly, a political consultant who was actually Jordan's campaign manager in the previous election.

It becomes obvious quite quickly that neither one of the men pose a serious threat to Brown. Jordan has already lost to him once, and Reilly has some past issues haunting him – a history of both alcohol and domestic abuse.

The real surprise comes just two weeks before the election when Tom Ammiano throws his hat into the ring. It's too late to get on the ballot anywhere, so he must launch a write-in campaign, and although he's tied with both Reilly and Jordan in the polls going into the November election, Ammiano actually captures roughly 25% of the vote – forcing a run-off election with the mayor in six short weeks.

Because Ammiano is so left-of-center, Brown actually becomes the more conservative candidate in the race, even getting the endorsement of San Francisco's Republican Party. Also, due in large part to the fact that Brown had already shown strong support for the gay community in the city, sexual orientation never plays a big role in the campaign, although the filmmakers do catch Brown on camera stating that Ammiano is "kind of weird."

Although I got the feeling that the filmmakers tried to do their best to paint Brown as a slick politician who will do anything to win, they aren't able to pull it off – and both candidates come out seeming like pretty decent people…well, at least compared to most politicians!

THE DVD

Video:
The movie is presented in full-frame, and is shot in true documentary-style with hand-held video and some news footage thrown in. There's nothing spectacular about the video quality here (indeed, much of it is occasionally grainy, or slightly out of focus), but it's about what you'd expect for a documentary.

Audio:
The audio is 2.0 Dolby and while not impressive, it serves it's purpose for the movie. One thing I did notice is that when the filmmakers were showing video clips from television (rather than stuff they shot on their own) the audio wasn't quite in synch with the video. It's a small distraction, but worth noting – and one I'm assuming was in the original film and not any problem with the DVD itself.

Extras:
Extras on this disc include six Interviews with some of the people featured in the documentary, including both Ammiano's and Brown's reaction to the film. There are also eight Deleted Scenes, plus Filmmaker Biographies and a Catalog of other available titles, eleven of which also include Trailers.

THE BOTTOM LINE

See How They Run doesn't come close to matching The War Room (the great documentary about the 1992 Clinton campaign) when it comes to behind the scenes access to the candidates and their staffs (most of the stuff here is taken from public gatherings and interviews), but it still proves to be an interesting look at one of the more fascinating elections in California over the past ten years. It doesn't have enough replay value to warrant a purchase (unless you are a die-hard political junkie), but it's certainly worth a rental.
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