‘Kid Candidate’ Blu-Ray Review – Hilarious And Inspirational Documentary Encourages You To Challenge Those In Power

This following film review was published previously as part of our 2021 SXSW Film Festival coverage. 

What self-respecting millennial hasn’t uploaded at least one dumb video to the internet, even if it was only to make your friends laugh? Now, what if that video took on a life of its own and opened up the possibility of making the world a better place? This is the journey that is documented in Jasmine Stodel’s (“Who Is”, Gentrification for Good? Pop Brixton Uproxx Reports) incisive new feature Kid Candidate. The titular subject is Hayden Pedigo, a 24-year-old artist and experimental musician from Amarillo, Texas, who found himself an unexpected candidate for Amarillo city council after a Harmony Korine-inspired campaign video caught the attention of the denizens of the internet. While Pedigo never intended to make a run for the position in earnest, this encouragement coupled with his genuine love for the city made him realize that he might just be the breath of fresh air that Amarillo needs. 

While the origins of his candidacy stem from a joke, Pedigo could not be more serious in his determination to help his crumbling city. The deep-dive that Kid Candidate takes into the local politics of Amarillo expertly shows the class disparity that has been allowed to run rampant in recent decades and the effect that it has had on the community. At the center of this corruption is a PAC known as Amarillo Matters, which has worked to install individuals with like-minded ideals into government in order to funnel funds away from the most desperate areas of the city and into their own coffers. The dividing line between the haves and have nots are illustrated through the flourishing southern area of the city with nicely manicured lawns and an impressive baseball stadium and the north side of Amarillo where dilapidated buildings and food deserts are the norm. Perhaps the most impressive feat this film pulls off is getting some of the key figures of this seemingly corrupt establishment to appear on camera to explain their version of events, such as Mayor Ginger Nelson. The film strives to not be completely biased despite the glaring evidence that all is not right in the city. 

Kid Candidate

So what does a 24-year-old musician with no political experience have to offer the city? He actually listens to what people need. It is easy for people to dismiss someone who is young and idealistic, but the status quo has not been working for the majority of people for the longest time. One of the most moving sequences of the film is when Pedigo visits a South Sudanese community to listen to some of the numerous issues they have faced as an underrepresented community. We have been conditioned to think that the differences between these factions would be too vast to find any common ground, but the film helps showcase how we are all more similar than not. There are various subjects in the film who admit that they have felt disenfranchised and powerless, but Pedigo actually inspired them to vote for the first time in a local election. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, which you could research but will not be revealed here, the fact that citizens are being inspired to take part in the political process is a positive step. 

As the film shows, though, the process is not an easy one for Pedigo. There are people in power who do not want to give up that power so easily, and Hayden has to weather all of the good and bad aspects of wading into politics. An early interview with “Chief Pain In The Ass” Jeff Blackburn finds the lawyer saying the harshest things about Pedigo, which makes certain revelations later in the film so fun and fascinating. There is also controversy from both sides of the political spectrum, as Pedigo is often seen as not liberal enough for the “ultra liberals” and too liberal for conservatives. This coupled with the disillusionment over the difficulty in building grassroots support and the rift his candidacy causes with his embarrassed parents sends him to the emotional brink. 

Kid Candidate does an excellent job of not making Pedigo feel like a joke. He may have a different approach to politics, but the average person should not feel like getting into local government is an insurmountable task when they have genuine intentions. Much like last year’s highly acclaimed Boys State, this documentary will leave you feeling hesitantly optimistic about the future of politics. This is not only a story of one “kid” trying to make a difference in his community, but also of how that community is shaken up and inspired to build upon his work. This may be a film that seems made to appeal to those with more liberal beliefs, but in actuality it is made for anyone who believes that the political system should be a place for everyone to have a voice. This is the inspirational tale we need right now. 

Kid Candidate

Video Quality

Kid Candidate comes to Blu-Ray featuring a lot of different material in varying degrees of quality. It can be said with certainty that the movie itself and everything within it looks as technically excellent as it can look in high definition. This can be attributed to the fact that Gunpowder & Sky has delivered a great encode and given the film plenty of room to breathe. The archival footage used seems to be in the best shape possible given the quality of the source material. New interview segments look incredibly sleek and clear with natural skin tones and detailed facial features. There is no evidence of compression artifacts or other digital nuisances of the sort. I do not see how this could have been improved visually. It’s a real stunner as is.

Audio Quality

This Blu-Ray comes with a stellar DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that captures this story perfectly. Dialogue is the driving force of the film, and it comes through crisp and clear without being clipped by any competing sounds. The filmmakers do a really great job of capturing their subjects and making sure all this information comes through with supreme clarity. Even audio from the old campaign video comes through pretty clearly given the source format. The music and the score establish the mood of the film, and those sounds are resolved well here as music often sleeks throughout the room. The chatter in the background of some of the gatherings provides a nice base texture to the proceedings. Ambient sounds from some of the environmental elements are precisely placed in the rear channels. The audio track is not pushed to the limit with this content, but it nonetheless proves to be an excellent sounding presentation for this feature. There are optional English SDH subtitles included for those who desire them. 

Kid Candidate

Special Features

  • Audio Commentary: Director Jasmine Stodel and star subject Hayden Pedigo deliver a decent commentary track that can devolve a bit too much to the participants quietly watching the film, but when they are speaking they deliver some fun tidbits about the production and the vibe of Amarillo. The best parts happen when Pedigo interjects with musings on aspects of the film he did not know were going to be included. 
  • Oak Cliff Film Festival Q&A: An eleven-minute live Q&A with Stodel and Pedigo in which they discuss how the project came together, the benefits of having some of Pedigo’s friends involved with the production, how fulfilling it was to talk to high school age kids about important issues, the feelings they have following the results of the film and more. This is a really solid addition to the set. 
  • Deleted Scenes: Nine deleted or extended scenes totaling 32 minutes featuring Hayden speaking at a forum, a visit to SXSW 2019, failing to successfully campaign door-to-door, Hayden reflecting on the results and more. There is a lot of fantastic material that fans of the movie should check out. 
  • Jeff-Isms: A five-minute collection of musings from Jeff which make the movie so entertaining. 


Final Thoughts

Kid Candidate is an impressive documentary that goes beyond the novelty of having a young person run for office and digs into the system that thrives on apathy from people who believe change is impossible. Local politics may not be the most “sexy” topic on the surface, but in actuality it provides one of the most immediate and personal looks at the effects of power that we can see. Gunpowder & Sky and Vinegar Syndrome have provided a Blu-Ray featuring a stellar A/V presentation and a pleasing assortment of special features. Even if you do not agree with Hayden Pedigo about politics, what he stands for in terms of trying to better your community should be of interest to all. Highly Recommended 

Kid Candidate is currently available to purchase on Standard Edition Blu-Ray or with a Limited Edition Slipcover exclusively through Vinegar Syndrome. 

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Gunpowder & Sky and Vinegar Syndrome have supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.