ANTHONY WEINER IN ELYSE STEINBERG AND JOSH KRIEGMAN’S WEINER. PHOTO COURTESY OF SUNDANCE SELECTS.
In 2013, filmmakers Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg set out to capture the ultimate political comeback. Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, who, two years prior, had mistakenly posted a lewd crotch shot to his Twitter account, setting off a media firestorm that flamed across late-night talk shows and New York Post headlines, was planning for his second act: a bid for New York City mayor. Steinberg and Kriegman started rolling the day of his announcement.
Weiner, which won the Grand Jury Prize for documentary this year at Sundance and comes to theaters this month, is a breakneck-paced, fly-on-the-wall account of the rise and fall of Weiner’s campaign and his home life with wife Huma Abedin, top aide to Hillary Clinton. “I really wanted to make a vérité documentary, a character-driven narrative,” Steinberg says. “My preconceived notions of Anthony were not in line with who he was—he’s a much more complex, multifaceted person.”
Kriegman, who worked in Weiner’s district office in New York during his tenure in Congress, was the main cameraman, muscling into press conferences, town halls, and Weiner’s meet-and-greets with prospective voters. When news of more sexting revelations, more explicit photos, and Weiner’s nom-de-sext “Carlos Danger” broke, “We stayed with the story,” Kriegman says. The implosion of Weiner’s campaign and reputation is hard to watch, but his high-energy charisma, even as he goes toe-to-toe with a heckler in a Brooklyn bakery, embarrassingly re-watches a difficult interview on an MSNBC pundit’s show, or scarfs a sandwich in the back of his town car, somehow endears us to the politico. Steinberg and Kriegman render a complete portrait, rife with drama, including a nail-biting sequence in which Weiner and his team use a neighboring McDonald’s to bypass “Pineapple”—code name of Weiner’s sexting partner Sydney Leathers, who posted herself, surrounded by press, outside Weiner’s primary night party. “We see celebrity meltdowns, we see scandals. We see them play out all the time,” Kriegman says. “What is like to be in the room with the people while it happens? What is that human story?”
WEINER COMES OUT THIS FRIDAY, MAY 20, IN SELECT THEATERS.