The Youngest candidate – An inspiring tale of four teens in local politics

By Henri Makembe on 05.21.10


Earlier this month, I had a chance to attend a screening of the “The Youngest Candidate” at the the 2010 Politics on Film Festival, directed by Jason Pollock and produced by David Letterman’s company, Worldwide Pants.

The documentary tells the story of four teens, Ytit Chauhan, Raul De Jesus, George Monger, and Tiffany Turpper, who are running for various local public offices in 2007. Their story is one of young and passionate idealists with the courage and conviction to confront a less than stellar political system in each of their localities. It is a story full of great challenges and small victories.

Pollock did a great job documenting each aspect of the candidates’ journey to election day from fundraising to canvassing. The film provided real insight into the candidates’ state of mind through late-night video diaries. One Wikipedia editor summarized their story best writing: “through their journey, these young candidates learn about fair play, leadership development, racism in politics, the importance of family, and other lessons that they will carry with them throughout their lives.”

While the film covers the candidates integration with local media via talk radio and print interviews, it’s interesting that he omits the newest forms of media exposure. Pollock does not address whether the candidates or their opponents had any presence online.

The neglect of new media is especially curious in the case of George Monger, who in his spare time is an aspiring music producer. As one who has succesfully used online outlets like MySpace to promote his artists, he, more than the other candidates, would have been more keenly aware of the power of the internet in spreading the word of his campaign. Pollock goes as far as including a clip where Turpper denies an opportunity to create a Facebook group, claiming that she wants to be taken seriously as a candidate.

Moreover, the film does not contain any cuts of candidates trying to mobilize their friends and supporters through text messaging. It is true that Facebook and MySpace may have been in their infancy in 2007, but text messaging was certainly very popular among teens at that time.

After the screening, I talked to Pollock about the lack of new media. Pollock, who has since turned into a new media consultant for the likes of Ashton Kutcher, admitted that it was missing from the film. He went on to say that if he were to reshoot the film today, it would certainly play a much larger role.

New media aside, this documentary is worth watching. In American Politics, teens and young voters are often labeled as apathetic. A label that I’ve always thought does a disservice to the young people working for advocacy organizations and elected officials. Pollock’s film serves as a reminder that young people do care and areengaged in our democracy.