“Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn”
Screened at the 41st Annual Reeling Chicago International LGBTQ+ Film Festival (5/5); Letterboxd (5/5), Imdb.com (10/10), TMDB.com (5/5)
In an age when politicians on both sides of the aisle are increasingly being seen as incompetent, self-serving and inauthentic, it’s refreshing to learn about one who apparently defies all of those traits. And viewers can now learn more about this inspiring individual in director Timothy Harris’s excellent debut documentary feature, a profile of Pennsylvania State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta (D), the first openly gay person of color to serve in the Commonwealth’s statehouse. The film focuses on Kenyatta’s 2022 run for the US Senate, a campaign fraught with financial difficulties, exaggerated questions of electability, biased punditry and media coverage, and a lack of support from his own party’s officials, including in his home district of Philadelphia. Nevertheless, these obstacles did not stop Kenyatta from soldiering on with his own style of out-and-proud, shoot-from-the-hip style of politicking, especially against his two better-known, better-financed Caucasian opponents. But, the election aside, one of the great strengths of this film is its examination of his upbringing and his life outside of politics, most notably his loving relationship with husband Matthew Jordan-Miller Kenyatta. By doing this, the filmmaker shows how Kenyatta’s personal life has shaped his policies and the apparent authenticity of his message, one driven by compassion, heartfelt sincerity and a growing intolerance of a system that seems hellbent on preserving a status quo that’s ever more exclusionary than not. This well-balanced, superbly integrated approach makes for excellent documentary filmmaking, giving audiences a comprehensive view of its subject and reason to see why he could easily be looked on as a rising star in American politics, one who speaks for many who don’t feel that their voices are being heard by the current establishment. Executive Producer Al Roker and his colleagues have created an insightful, uplifting watch, one that may actually give us some bona fide hope for the future of the nation’s politics – not to mention the nation itself.