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4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

FRONTRUNNERS is a smart and funny political documentary that follows the student council presidential campaign at one of the country's most prestigious public high schools: Stuyvesant High School in New York City. Follow 4 charming and idiosyncratic candi


Caroline Suh’s directorial debut, Frontrunners, is a charming, candid, and almost scary glimpse into the advanced levels of student sophistication in America’s top high schools. In this case, Suh, who has copious experience as a documentary producer, put her documentary research skills to use at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, an elite school in which students who aren’t admitted to Top Ten colleges are considered total rejects by their peers. Frontrunners charts the arc of the student government elections, starring four kids who want the presidency. Mike Zaytsev, Hannah Freiman, Alex Leonard, and George Zisiadis each select running mates and crave victory with varying degrees of conviction. The documentary is comprised of interview footage with the candidates at school, at home, and sometimes features the parents of the chosen few, expressing concerns about the pressures that are placed upon their children to succeed. The levels of competition are astounding; one scene capturing their "televised" debates shows how this school simulates real-life for hardcore training. Though the interviews are often hilarious, what really carries the film is ample footage of the candidates planning and enacting strategies. George, who seems to have been born to become president, cooks up political platforms as naturally as a thuggish student may shoot spitwads onto the classroom’s ceiling. Hannah, whose office bulletin board commemorates her trips to film festivals and theater events, is extremely well-poised in front of a camera, resulting from what some may attribute to having been privy from her early years to a cultured lifestyle. So, as the presidential race unfurls, one sees not only a cutthroat teenage contest but also the ways in which students are shaped by their home lives. Frontrunners should provide proof to parents and public schools alike that youth will indeed succeed if one sets expectations and opportunity high. Bravo to Oscilloscope Laboratories (owned by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch) for releasing this humorously inspiring film. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Stuyvesant High School
  • Directors: Caroline Suh
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Oscilloscope
  • DVD Release Date: January 20, 2009
  • Run Time: 82 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001EUSYI0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,934 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Frontrunners" on IMDb

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I saw this film because I had heard so much buzz about it from movie buffs and politicos alike. We went to Film Forum here in New York City, and the theater was packed; we barely got seats, and by the time the movie started people were standing and sitting in the aisles. I'm not from New York, so Stuyvesant as a phenomenon was new to me, and I don't think it mattered a whit; in fact, I think the movie's themes are wholly universal. What Frontrunners does is place you back in high school again in a way none of the glossy pop-culture or teen reality shows even attempt let alone achieve. The students featured in Frontrunners are complex, funny, incredibly smart and likable, or sometimes not, but always themselves, a credit to the filmmakers and their trust in their material. Their struggles and triumphs are poignant and captured brilliantly--the director is never intrusive but doesn't miss a trick, from one character's fidgeting hands to another's sideways smile. From beginning to end, supporting characters to soundtrack, atmosphere to setting, this film nailed its subject matter and more: turned a slice of real life familiar to anyone who ever attended high school into art. What more can you ask of a documentary? Best film I saw all year, bar none. Buy this DVD for all those who got caught up in this year's national election.
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Format: DVD
Frontrunners is a delightful film about the student elections at Stuyvesant High School. Stuyvesant is obviously not the typical high school, but the student elections are definitely similar to most student elections at any other high school in the United States. It makes for an interesting insight into how student elections work and how similar they are to the presidential elections.

I started watching Frontrunners right after I watched a movie called "Palindromes" which just so happens to feature Hannah Freiman as one of the main actors. I didn't realize that she would be in both films, and it caught me by surprise. However, after watching Palindromes, it was neat seeing Hannah as a real person rather than her character in Palindromes. Her character is a really awkward 13-year-old that is trying to get pregnant, so it was interesting to see that Hannah was actually a popular cheerleader in real life.

I thought the whole documentary was entertaining and very funny. The students running in the elections pretty much made the film. If the students were boring and mundane, the film would have been much of the same. However, I suppose students that choose to run in the elections are typically interesting characters. I found George to be extremely entertaining, and it didn't even seem as though he was acting that way because he was being filmed. It seemed like he acts in that manner every day.

The documenting of the student elections seemed organic; it didn't seem contrived as if there was a camera following the students around. I'm sure that there was not a camera in the students' faces the whole time during the election, but obviously, there was a camera there for all the parts that we saw.

Overall, I thought the film was great!
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I saw this movie at the New York Film Festival (and again with my husband at Film Forum), and really loved it -- both times! While the exceptionally smart kids at Stuyvesant might not be your average high schoolers, you'll still recognize and connect with them. This is a funny movie with wit and heart. The political issues that these young candidates face are more than reminiscent of our recent presidential race, making it a particularly fascinating and fun must-see.
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Format: DVD
If you're not from the tri-state area, chances are you've never heard
of Stuyvesant High School. Though it is the top math and science school
in New York City, with an average SAT score in the 1400s, the school
that receives twenty-five thousand applicants a year but only accepts
the top 750 runs more like a university than a public secondary school.
Stuyvesant, therefore, is by no means a "typical" American high school,
so just what, then, made this the quintessential place for Director
Caroline Suh to study a "typical" high school election?

"The minute I said I wanted to do a film about the lives of high school
candidates, a friend said I had to check out Stuyvesant," Suh explains.
Perhaps simply for the fact that it is so unlike any other place: it is
a surreal, seemingly fictional world all on its own that tries to run
like a microcosm of the real world, just in a place where everything is
really trivial in the end.

Frontrunners is not about Stuyvesant, though; it is about the students
at Stuyvesant-- a very select few who, although each are unique, do not
seem interesting enough to warrant their own documentary. When thrown
together, though, their different personalities compliment each other
in an odd way and serve to show their school as a bit more well-rounded
than is assumed when someone hears the words "math and science
technical school." Suh does not turn a blind eye to the biggest part of
high school, though-- the popularity of the students-- but she allows
her subjects to be the ones to point out the fact that the
"cheerleaders would vote for Hannah, and the quieter Asians would vote
for George, and the Russian kids would probably vote for Mike.
Read more ›
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