Attention Audiences – A Damn the Pandemic, Full Speed Ahead Film Review (And Don’t Forget Your Masks When You See the Film): Director Skye Wallin’s AMERICAN GADFLY

With a classy fly-on-the-wall, cinéma-vérité style, GADFLY tells a dazzling story of three Upstate New York high school teenagers who persuade a 89-year-old former U.S. Senator in a state on the other side of the country, Alaska, to come out of retirement and throw his hat in the ring for the 2020 Presidential Election.

No doubt a film about three youths still wet behind the years and yet to leave home to live on their own and hooking up with an octogenarian sensing the coming of the light at the end of the tunnel may sound like a Disneyish PG 13 rated pie-in-the-sky family flick. But the filmmakers, the teens and the senator were damn serious about their missions from the get-go.

Thus, GADFLY is a remarkable documentary that flows like an Hollywood narrative with imaginative and classy direction and productions values, idiosyncratic yet irresistible characters, a whimsical can-you-believe-it story line in a matrix imbued with an intimate uplifting kaleidoscopic feel visceral and visual. GADFLY can literally and figuratively sweep an audience into a temporal 96-minute wonderland in these times of Pandemic and Trumpian apocalyptic angst about the fate of America.

Again, what’s remarkable about the film is the superb cinematography and filmmaking that can seduce an audience into a rapturous feature-length feeling that it is an intimate part of the movie, a fly on the wall to something marvelously taking place. Now on VOD via Gravitas Ventures – thank the gods.

The three students back then were Campaign Manager David Oks, Chief of Staff Henry Williams, and Director of Operations Elijah Emery. Their candidate: Mike Gravel. This reviewer wouldn’t be surprised if potential viewers struggle to recall the students’ feats back then though some may recall a flicker of recognition about Gravel who did earn a serious measure of national attention in the course of his political career.

Get this: The three high schoolers savvily decided to use social media, especially twitter, to promote Gavel, minimizing what would have been a punishing travel schedule for the 89-year-old former U.S. Senator from Alaska.They wanted to him to qualify for the Democratic debates in order to thematically introduce an anti-war, anti-corruption and direct democracy agenda. The plan was to accumulate 65,000 small donors and that was to qualify Gravel to appear on one of the Democratic debates.

They were driven by a passion that America could truly live up to its ideals and promise of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – for all.

Director Skye Whallin’s Recent Q&A with MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan


More Background

Maurice Gravel served as a Democratic U.S. Senator from Alaska from 1969 to 1981 and later twice ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. He served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1963 to 1967, and also was a Speaker of the Alaska House.

He became nationally known for his dynamic though unsuccessful push for legislation to end the draft during the War in Vietnam. He was also garnered national attention in 1971 by introducing the Pentagon Papers into the public record by reading every page in an exhaustive, one-man nonstop session. He campaigned for the Democratic nomination in 1972 for Vice President of the United States.

He was an advocate of direct democracy and the National Initiative. Gravel staged a run for the 2008 Democratic nomination for President of the United States. His campaign didn’t get the support it needed, and in March 2008, he left the Democratic Party and joined the Libertarian Party and competed unsuccessfully for its presidential nomination and the inclusion of the National Initiative into the Libertarian Platform.

Two years before his death June 26, 2021, Gravel and his campaign staff founded the progressive Gravel Institute think tank.


In Memoriam


Gregg W. Morris can be reached at,