Beto O’Rourke received a rapturous standing ovation at South by Southwest on Saturday afternoon after the premiere of the documentary “Running With Beto.”
Although the movie plays like the announcement of a presidential run, O’Rourke sidestepped a question about 2020 at a Q&A following the film.
“Running With Beto” trails O’Rourke as he mounted a failed 2018 campaign to topple Ted Cruz from his Texas seat in the Senate. The movie’s director, David Modigliani, revealed that he spent two years on the road with O’Rourke, collecting 700 hours of footage for the project, which will air on HBO.
O’Rourke recalled how Modigliani asked him to make the film over breakfast one morning in Austin. “I was like, ‘What the f—?’” O’Rourke said. “We’re running for Senate. If you want to bring a camera along sometimes. I didn’t think it would be this. I didn’t realize how involved they will be.”
It’s been the season of campaign documentaries. At Sundance, Netflix scooped up “Knock Down the House,” about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise victory for a seat as a New York Congresswoman. The filmmakers behind “Running With Beto” seemed to have had more access with their candidate. The movie offers an honest look at the loneliness of life on the campaign trail and how it affects O’Rourke’s wife, Amy Hoover Sanders, and three young children.
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On election night, the crew follows O’Rourke to his house and sits with him in the kitchen after his painful loss, and there are also several squabbles caught on camera between O’Rourke and Cynthia Cano, his road manager, as he vents to her about his schedule and a lack of preparation.
At the Q&A, O’Rourke said that he’d seen a rough cut of “Running With Beto” prior to SXSW. “It was incredibly emotional to watch,” O’Rourke said. “David asked us what we thought. We said, ‘It’s amazing. We’re maybe too close to it to understand it and have a perspective on it, but it’s very powerful.’ I said, ‘Can you just show a scene where Cynthia and I are not fighting?’” O’Rourke said with a laugh.
O’Rourke said that he didn’t have any editorial control over the project. “We knew this was their film and we trusted them with everything,” O’Rourke said. “They had cameras in the van going at all times. They had mic packs that you saw on us.”
But his wife, Hoover Sanders, had one note. “The only feedback I gave was, ‘Can you take out some of the expletives?’”