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Tuesday, March 11 • 1:30pm - 3:30pm

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It's hard to run for office Ñ even in high school.And the campaign for student body president at Stuyvesant, perhaps the most prestigious public high school in the country, is almost as sophisticated as any presidential election. Candidates must choose running mates, navigate primaries, write political platforms, perform in televised debates, shake as many hands as possible, and win newspaper endorsements.But unlike presidential candidates, they also have to do their homework, take their SATs and write their college applications.FRONTRUNNERS, a documentary feature, follows the elections at the ultra-competitive Stuyvesant High School in New York City, and explores how politics works at its most nascent level.As the film unfolds, the candidates might seem like archetypes. There is the favorite, a popular heartthrob; the privileged cheerleader; the slacker jock; and a lone wolf straight out of Rushmore (his name is George). But each ends up being more complex than they might first appear.The candidates worry about their images, see their shortcomings and pick running mates accordingly. Can you really win without an Asian on your ticket -- when the voting public is more than 50% Asian? Is an all-female ticket automatically a loser? Will anyone vote for an outsider? And who will be charismatic enough to win the televised debate and knowledgeable enough about the real issues to impress the newspaper editorial board?In politics, nothing is inevitable, especially at Stuyvesant, where the voting public is made up of skeptical students who may be the best and brightest in the country. (Many compare getting into Stuyvesant as more difficult than matriculating at Yale Law School: only the top 3 percent of the 25,000 who take the citywide entrance exam are admitted yearly.) And Stuy's 3,200 students, from the five boroughs, reflect the diversity of the entire nation Ð teenagers of all ethnicities and economic backgrounds, children of privilege mixing with first generation immigrants, all there based on merit.As FRONTRUNNERS unfolds, the story takes on undertones familiar to anyone who has been a spectator to a national campaign -- revealing that young people have an implicit understanding of how strategy, race, gender, personality, platforms, charisma, height, and hairstyle figure into a winning campaign.Teenagers, it turns out, are also political animals. But, in the end, FRONTRUNNERS is also about a bunch of very smart, very funny teenagers who take things seriously, regardless of the stakes.

Tuesday March 11, 2008 1:30pm - 3:30pm
Austin Convention Ctr Room 9

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