Film Review: True Son

Whenever people think of politicians, the image of an exhausted Jimmy Stewart passionately standing up for his beliefs in the cinema classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is probably the last thing that comes to mind. Most people view politics with cynicism and assume that the people they elect are self interested and apathetic.

But not all politicians should be viewed with cynicism. Sometimes a story can remind us that there are people out there who genuinely want to make a difference.

True Son is a documentary that follows the story of Michael Tubbs, a Stanford graduate who was born to a teenage mother and incarcerated father and raised in Stockton, California. In a remarkable city council election campaign, Michael returns home and rallies hundreds of young Stockton residents between the ages of 14-21 to join his movement to Reinvent Stockton amid a historic homicide rate and impending bankruptcy that made national headlines in 2012.

Michael’s story is moving, inspirational, and revealing on many levels. The film documents the everyday demands of running a campaign and the unexpected challenges of gathering enough support to run it. As it gets closer to the election, Michael is faced with the growing challenges of trying to organize a disenfranchised voter base and his mission to help the youth become more interested in school and their bright future. The audience is afforded a glimpse into the story of Stockton’s downfall, a cautionary tale of what is happening to other cities in America.

All in all, Michael’s inspirational journey is portrayed beautifully throughout True Son. Director Kevin Gordon tells a compelling story that shows how Michael Tubbs can be more than your stereotypical underdog. True Son is a triumph of the human spirit and is incredibly informative about how local elections can become a grassroots movement for change. Throughout the film, it becomes apparent just how much a fledgling city council campaign can become something more than politics and can eventually grow into an influential and powerful movement for positive change.

Whether you are a budding political science major interested in how local politics work or the casual voter, True Son is revealing without being morally presumptuous or “preachy” to its audience. It feels human and communicates a revealing truth: anybody, no matter your origin or environment, can make a difference. Michael manages to positively influence those he is around in the processes of running his campaign throughout the film; he manages to positively influence his audience as well.

True Son will be screened at the Laemmie Music Hall in Los Angeles this weekend, November 7th-13th. You can visit the Laemmie Music Hall website here for more information on showtimes. For more information on the film, including if you are interested in screening the film in your community, visit the True Son website here.

Grade: A

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Aaron Zamora

Aaron grew up in Whittier, California and is currently finishing his master's degree in Human Communication studies from California State University, Fullerton. His interest in journalism began in high school where he served as the Editor-in-Chief for his school’s newspaper and participated in their inaugural broadcast journalism program. An avid world traveler, Aaron has a wide array of interest that include a passion for cinema and television. He is also a sports fanatic.

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