A Man Among Giants (2008)
Documents the trials and tribulations of Doug "Tiny" Tunstall, a 4-foot-7 African American Republican on public assistance who ran for the position of Mayor of Pawtucket, Rhode Island in 2006. As a former pro-wrestler, and a member of the G.O.P. in a town with a long-sitting Democrat incumbent, Tiny has a difficult time being taken seriously. But thanks in part to the nurturing of his loving father, Tiny never lets that get him down, and he makes a conscious decision to turn his differences into assets. He develops thick skin, a big mouth, and an even bigger personality. After spending nearly two decades appearing on shows like WWE Monday Night Raw and The Jerry Springer Show, Tiny decides to take a shot at politics. But, in a political system where cash is king, Tiny can't do much but get out and shake hands with the voters, until a wealthy backer comes to champion his cause. This however creates a power-struggle within the campaign as Tiny struggles to stay true to himself, despite mounting pressure to conform and appeal to a wider group of voters. The power struggle comes to a head when allegations of a bomb threat to a local radio station reportedly called in by Tiny comes to the surface. When his backer drops out, Tiny's wild behavior spirals out of control, resulting in a surprise ending on election night. A Man Among Giants is not just about politics, it's about living the American dream. In a country which is becoming increasingly diverse, its proof positive that there is change on the horizon, and it is time for the little guy to be heard.
- A Man Among Giants is, on its face, a documentary about what happens when the ultimate little guy runs for political office. Beneath that mask is a story beyond what you would expect from such a film.
Most political documentaries take as their subject a charismatic, inspirational candidate full of vitality and out to change the world for the better. Usually told from the underdogs perspective for a better dramatic effect, win or lose, their story gives the viewer insight into the political process, and perhaps hope for what it can mean. In this case, there are flashes of charisma, energy, a kind of insight, and certainly a very big underdog. The rest is in the eye of the beholder.
Douglas Tiny Tunstall is a four-foot, seven-inch former professional wrestler, toy store elf, and Jerry Springer guest with a history of run-ins with the law, multiple aliases, and living on the government dole. He is also running for Mayor of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. As a Republican.
His story plays out like 2005s Street Fight, but seen through a funhouse mirror. On Bizarro World. Street Fights protagonist, Cory Booker, is a knowledgeable, passionate, accomplished, good-looking man who attended Stanford (where he played football), Oxford (as a Rhodes Scholar) and Yale Law. Tiny well, he can talk a good game even if hes not sure of the subject matter and he did wrestle a little in school. Booker is trying to unseat Mayor Sharpe James, an incumbent with decades of experience who will stop at nothing to get in Bookers way. Tunstall must face Mayor James Doyle, an incumbent with decades of experience, against whom Tunstall will do almost nothing to get out of his own way.
In what has to be some of the most raw footage ever seen of a political candidate since Marion Barrys FBI sting, filmmaker Rod Webber shows Tunstall at his best and, one would hope, at his worst. Yet there is the impression that Tiny doesnt care. He can be charming but also brash, abrasive, even downright offensive with no discernible embarrassment. At one of his lowest points drunk, nauseated, and sorrowful, literally and figuratively empty inside he suddenly, as if flipping a switch, seems to become an indomitable world-beater. In any given scenario, its unclear which Tiny were going to get. Even on Election Night, as the polls are closing and he stops by opponent Doyles headquarters, its unclear whether hes looking for a fight or just some free grub.
Along the way, this campaign also gives a taste of what its like to be one of the metaphorical little people trying to break into politics. Take away all of the things that make Tiny Tiny and you still have a story about an under-funded inexperienced candidate trying to overcome a well-meaning campaign manager that has a hard time remembering his name, an indifferent media, no real marketing savvy (he cant see the linguistic beauty of the one rare marketing triumph, a slogan that says Think Big, Vote Tiny), and an unfocused platform. In our current political climate where everything is polished to the point of plasticity, Tunstalls campaign is unvarnished.
Somehow, this odd little man, with his half-formed policy ideas and his misshapen sense of politics, connects with people. Not all, for sure, but some. With no real media budget, he takes his pressing of the flesh tours to areas of town, and to constituents, that would generally be overlooked and underappreciated. Just like Tiny. His constituency is the socio-political equivalent of a Tod Browning cast: the forgotten, the downtrodden, the outcasts - some would say, the freaks. But will they see Tiny as one of us come Election Day?
Ultimately, warts and all, he is strangely compelling. His campaign is a car crash and we are gawking rubberneckers. In the end, Tunstall shows the truth to the cliché that life is about the journey, not the destination and that, sometimes, even a loser can be a winner.
- Todd Cioffi June 4th, 2008