Beto O'Rourke's campaign comes to life in a darkened theater, for better and for worse


As soon as the light fell for the Saturday premiere of HBO's documentary "Running with Beto", former congressman Beto O'Rourke snuck into obscure cinema with his wife and daughter.

The crowd spotted him and applauded. A photographer followed O'Rourke to his seat, the camera illuminating the face of the potential presidential candidate. A third-row woman whispered, "He's like a movie star."

In less than a year, O 'Rourke went from a relatively unknown El Paso congressman, leading a campaign in Texas against the Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, to a political celebrity regularly assailed by fan worshipers and urged by foreigners to run for president – what his relatives say he's planning to do.

But celebrity has a cost, which, as the documentary shows, was borne by O'Rourke's three young children. For 90 minutes on Saturday, O'Rourke was seen reminiscing how his last campaign had been tough – and how much more painful a race could be – for his kids.

O'Rourke gave the documentary team unrestricted access to his family and several campaign staff for over a year, allowing them to collect 700 hours of footage. O'Rourke said he trusted filmmakers to respect his family and that the team was "really interested in telling our story, we could feel it".

The result was a glimpse of a heartbreaking reality rarely seen in the smiling and smiling images usually put forward by the candidates.

In one scene, O'Rourke's youngest son, Henry, hid behind the couch and left a voice message to his father. In another letter, O'Rourke's wife explained that the children had started writing letters to their father from the old school instead of chatting with him on video because "after hanging up on the phone. . . they were in tears and really upset. "

O'Rourke's children reported seeing two heavily armed gun rights activists confront their father at a gun-controlled protest. And the night their father lost the election, the kids explained how sad it was to see others crying.

"I'm ready for it to be over," said his eldest son, Ulysses, then 11, at the end of the campaign, while both parents were away several days a week.

Ulysses was not the only one.

"I have a very difficult time right now," said O'Rourke at one point, going himself to a campaign event. "For the Wall Street Journal reporter to ask me 50 questions in an hour, sit down right in front of the NPR reporter and dance for a while in front of him. And then, do not eat, get up and go to this city hotel and try to be sincere and direct with people. Your brain just does not have time to relax and unwind. . . He closed the thought with vulgarity.

The documentary, co-produced by Crooked Media, a firm founded by former Obama staff members, recounts with emotion the beto-mania that swept through Texas last year and describes three volunteers who deeply believed in O'Rourke. O 'Rourke is a candidate who became nervous before addressing a huge crowd or debating with Cruz, who criticized his overworked employees, who recognized the night of the elections that he often had was a "giant" jerk on the campaign track, who had a complicated relationship with his own father and still pushed his young children into the spotlight.

Amy O'Rourke said in the film that her husband had for the first time proposed to run for Congress while she was pregnant with their youngest daughter.

"I cried and cried because I did not understand why he would almost like to sacrifice our family for such important positions," she said. "Because everything I knew about life on the hill was a little dirty and sticky and people changed when they got there."

Two years later, she had a change of heart. O'Rourke was elected to the House of Representatives three times, and then motivated by the election of President Trump to the Senate candidacy – a decision that O'Rourke described as "easy" to make.

Beto and Amy O'Rourke attended the premiere of the South by Southwest festival with their daughter – their two young sons chose not to come – and then answered a few questions from the audience.

When asked if he was considering running for president, Mr. O. Rourke dodged, referring the conversation to several candidates for local positions. (Later, he told reporters that he wanted to "do things right" and "on the timeline that suits my family and my country.") One speaker, a mother of three, thanked the O & # 39; Rourke's wife and daughter to "share your dad with us" – the only allusion made by the crowd to the costs incurred.

The friendly audience of the first was filled with former campaign staff and volunteers who laughed heartily, applauded the audience, applauded the audience and relived the campaign, sometimes crying openly. Later, when they left the theater, they provided rave reviews. In interviews, some O'Rourke supporters said they were ready to volunteer for a presidential campaign, while others said that, even if they liked him, they did not think he was ready to go to the White House.

While on screen, O'Rourke defended the right of soccer players to kneel to protest inequality – a moment captured in a viral video that catapulted him into national significance – his former director Jody Casey was sitting in front of the audience and applauding.

O 'Rourke had a stony smile on his face for most of the documentary, even though it sounded like a grimace when he watched himself repeatedly criticize his director of the road, Cynthia Cano, for not not having enough time in his calendar to keep it on schedule, to not prepare him properly for the events of the campaign. Sometimes, during these scenes, O'Rourke leaned across Cano and other staff and seemed to whisper to them. While the documentary quickly tackled the highlights of the last days of the campaign – O. Rourke climbing to the top of a vehicle in a parking lot to address supporters, meeting voters for the first time , voting with his family, passing in front of a polling station – O 'Rourke sank to his wife.

The cameras continued to follow O'Rourke as he prepared to make a concession speech and snuggle backstage with his family and key collaborators, telling them how much he loved and marveled at them. the hardness of their work.

"You never allowed my faults to hurt the best campaign this state has ever seen," he told them.

The documentary ended and the audience applauded. O'Rourke, his family and his assistants came out of the black theater to prepare for a question and answer session. The credits were launched when Tom Petty's "Runnin 'Down a Dream" sounded. In the dark, someone shouted: "2020!"

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