SXSW Online 2021 Review: “Kid Candidate”

Year: 2021
Duration: 1h 7m
Director: Jasmine Stodel

By Caz Armstrong

Hayden Pedigo is a 24 year old experimental musician running for city council in Amarillo, Texas, a city with a population of 200,000 people. He’s keen, inexperienced and passionate, the youngest person ever to run for council in Amarillo.

This documentary by filmmaker Jasmine Stodel is a character study that makes you not only root for the hero but for social and political change. We’re introduced to Hayden as a fun loving tearaway larking about with his friends and making impromptu short films. The music is bright, it’s all a lot of fun.

Indeed, Hayden’s political endeavours did start out as a joke. He starred in a short comedy film about being a council member measuring up random things in the city with a tape measure. But the video went viral and soon people were talking about the youngest person to run for council.

This sparked something in Hayden and he was inspired to actually try to make a difference in his city, and to inspire others. So he put his name on the ballot.

In the opposite corner is the old way of doing things. The incumbents, the cosy handshakes and looking after their own. The tone of the film now becomes a little more sombre as we see what Hayden is up against, learn more about his upbringing, and hear him speak with a deep passion about his community.

“Kid Candidate” Credit: Homero Salinas

The city of Amarillo has large areas of poverty and deprivation. There are food deserts where people can buy alcohol but not a piece of fruit. There’s also a lot of inequality which is exacerbated by unequal funding of public amenities.

It’s against this backdrop that the pale and stale status quo politicians look so out of touch. There are accusations of corruption, backhanders, ulterior motives, crocodile tears and an unnerving reliance on the hand of god. Compared to these people Hayden is a breath of fresh air, bringing a new, more honest way of doing things. He promises to listen first and humble himself before acting, and always treat his community members as equals.

Hayden accepts no political contributions, insisting that he is not for sale. If he’s going to win he’ll do it by being an honest and upright person. Word of mouth is more important than money, especially given the alleged corruption rife amongst city leadership.

Stodel’s directing shows us what a fascinating character Hayden is. She doesn’t undermine him by focusing solely on his age and inexperience but she balances it with his passion, his warmth, his compassion for others and his inbuilt speaking ability. Despite his insecurities and self doubt his spirit shines though. He wears his heart on his sleeve and that makes for a great political candidate and a great documentary.

As the countdown to the election continues we see Hayden push forwards, doubt himself and get out of his comfort zone. But in doing so he inspires others to engage in politics. He brings communities together and pushes forwards an inclusive agenda that seeks progress for all.

Stodel’s documentary is all too brief with it’s snappy 67 minute runtime. But it’s a gem of a film. We not only spend time with a fascinating, driven subject but we see another side of life. We are shown how important political engagement is at any age. And we are inspired to call on all politicians to work for the good of everyone in their communities, not just those with the cheque books.

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