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It's hard to run for office - even in high school. And the campaign for student body president at Stuyvesant, perhaps the most prestigious public high school in the country, is almost as ... See full summary »




Cast overview, first billed only:
George Zisiadis ...
Hannah Freiman ...
Michael Zaytsev ...
Matt Polazzo ...
Jon Edelman ...
Alex Leonard ...
Vanessa Charubhumi ...
Lauren Gonzales ...
Marta Bralic ...
Zakia Babb ...
Wyndam Makowsky ...
Andrew Saviano ...
Sharel Itzkovich ...
Joe Kopyt ...
Himself (as Joseph Kopyt)
Michael Lipkin ...


It's hard to run for office - even in high school. And the campaign for student body president at Stuyvesant, perhaps the most prestigious public high school in the country, is almost as sophisticated as any presidential election. Candidates must choose running mates, navigate primaries, write political platforms, perform in televised debates, shake as many hands as possible, and win newspaper endorsements. But unlike presidential candidates, they also have to do their homework, take their SATs and write their college applications. FRONTRUNNERS follows the recent elections at the country's most competitive high school, exploring how politics works at a nascent level. As the race unfolds, it takes on undertones familiar to anyone who has watched a national election -- revealing that teenagers have an implicit understanding of how strategy, race, gender, personality, platforms, charisma, and hairstyle figure into a winning campaign. Written by Anonymous

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15 October 2008 (USA)  »

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How student governance doesn't even interest our future governors
26 February 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Released on Election Eve in 2008, Caroline Suh's 'Frontrunners' capitalizes on our appetite for the vicissitudes, gaffes and drama of the electoral race. Set at Stuyvesant High School in New York, the United States' most prestigious public high school where over half the student population is Asian (note the unsurprising correlation), the film tracks the campaigns of the four tickets as they vie for the role of Senior President.

The parallels that can be drawn with national electoral races are quickly made apparent. Race is of vital importance - all the serious tickets are multi-ethnic - and it is clear that one candidate has chosen his running mate based on her Asian ethnicity alone. Friends and associates are drawn in to help with campaigning, each ticket adopting the classic high-school approach of harassing younger students with leaflets. The little matter of policies is ignored, very deliberately and quite fittingly by Suh, in favour of exposing what really matters to most voters, how the candidates come across in person. The old adage of 'would you have a beer with them?' has never been more apparent.

The candidates are drawn conveniently from a cross-section of school life anywhere. George is the Greek, chess-playing, socially awkward nerd, Mike is the suave, smart Junior Year President and Hannah is the athletic, cheer-leading, theatre club President. The final candidate, a basket-baller without the necessary school positions to fill out the lines on his running ticket, is sadly never considered (a cruel editing decision).

The difficulty however with Stuyvesant's election is that despite appearing to relate to your own school experience by drawing on similar characters, the nature of the school serves only to disassociate the viewer. How many of us went to schools where the budget for the Student Union exceeded $50,000? Or had live-televised debates for its student elections? Or even primaries for that matter? The real parallel, and one that certainly I can recall, is the apathy, an aspect of the election that Suh doesn't really engage with. If anything, the election, and the effect of it's results, is profoundly exaggerated. This is America's number one public high school, where you would expect the students to care about student politics, why is it therefore that the apathy is as high as at any mediocre high school? For all its faults though, Suh's film is an easy watch. As we are shown the candidates fighting for the endorsement of the student newspaper, using dirty tricks to expose competitors in the live debates and pressuring friends into voting for them, genuine drama is undoubtedly created. The candidates are engaging in their own ways and you will no doubt find your favourite and cheer them home. Just don't expect powerful insights into the nature of our more meaningful political races.

Concluding Thought: This is the best public high school in the United States, and only 600 of the 3200-strong student body bothered voting? Maybe apathy is the real story?

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