Every year, 25,000 students apply to New York City’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. Out of those 25,000 students, only 750 get in. A meritocracy in the best sense of the word, Stuyvesant pulls in the best and the brightest, regardless of wealth, class, race, or gender. Most of the students are the children of first- or second-generation immigrants, with close to fifty percent identified as Asian. The top percentile of each graduating class goes on to Ivy League or other well-respected universities and colleges. Not surprisingly, the yearly elections for president of the student body are famed for their hyper-competitiveness. If that sounds like a subject that’d make a fascinating, compelling documentary, then filmmaker Caroline Suh would agree with you. Suh’s documentary, Frontrunners, is every bit as fascinating and compelling as she intended (and hoped).
Frontrunners follows four candidates running for president, Hannah Freiman, a cheerleader and actress running for the top spot for the first time, George Zisiadis, a hyperactive, geeky type who’s worked in some capacity for the student union for three years, including a stint as president of the freshman class and chief of staff, Mike Zaytsev, a former sophomore president and CFO (Chief Financial Officer) for the school’s student budget, and Alex Leonard, a basketball player and “dark horse” candidate (only at Stuyvesant is a popular student-athlete considered a dark horse). Each candidate gets to pick his or her running mate usually to balance one of his or her perceived weaknesses or to cover more demographic ground. The VP candidates make little impact otherwise, though (they’re more seen than heard in Frontrunners). Before the election proper, the four candidate teams have to go through a vigorous primary: only the top two vote getters move on to the general election.