NJ politics on the screen ‘Anytown, USA’ documentary showing at North Bergen’s Cine Plaza

The way John Sikes looks at it, Americans are fascinated with politics, especially the small-town variety.

One day, he and his friends were talking about politics, and this led to the idea to make a documentary about an election.

“We went to parties and everyone started talking about politics,” said Sikes, a native of Leonia, N.J. “One of the producers [Juan Dominguez] grew up in Bogota and there was a pretty interesting mayoral election ongoing there. The incumbent mayor [Steve Lonegan] was a controversial, colorful guy. There was a lot of interest in him. So we decided to make a movie.”

After two years of filming and editing, the result was “Anytown, USA,” a movie that has been getting rave reviews at movie festivals around the country.

Now, the film is enjoying a two-week run at the Cine Plaza 12 on Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen through Jan. 19.

Sikes, whose company Sirk Productions of New York has been making movies and commercials since 2000, is pleased with the reception he has received from theatergoers.

It has been honored as Best Documentary at the Minneapolis Film Festival, the Atlanta Film Festival, and the Long Island Film Festival. The film’s director, Kristian Fraga, was named Best Director at the Trenton Film Festival.

Critics have been complimentary of the movie, which features the 2003 mayoral election between three candidates, the legally-blind incumbent (Lonegan), the old-school Democrat (Fred Pesce) and an independent write-in candidate (Dave Musikant), who entered the race because Lonegan decided to eliminate athletics at the high school as a cost-cutting procedure.

Musikant was a former football hero at Bogota High School.

Antics The ongoing antics among the three candidates become almost burlesque-like and are actually quite funny.

“It really was a long process,” Sikes said. “We started filming in 2003 and finished editing in early 2005. But we were really happy with the way it turned out.”

Since “Anytown, USA” did so well in the film festivals, Sikes decided to try it out in theatrical venues. It recently had a two-week run in Teaneck, before opening in North Bergen last week.

“We contacted the theater in North Bergen and they were very interested,” Sikes said. “We’re trying to get it spread around New Jersey as much as possible. The people I’ve spoken to said that they loved the movie. I think there was the interest because of the candidates, but also because it’s New Jersey. It’s something they can relate to.”

The candidates all saw the movie and supported it. (Lonegan won the election.)

“I think they all see the movie differently, which is good,” Sikes said. “I think we were fortunate to get in on all the behind-the-scenes stuff, which really interests people. We try to tell the story of what happens in a local race. It really turned out to be a labor of love.”

Sikes even went to North Bergen to display the movie poster, to see if he could personally drum up interest.

“When you do a project like this, the ultimate payoff would be other projects,” Sikes said. “That’s what we’re all hoping for.”

“Anytown, USA” is playing at the Cine Plaza 12 on 69th Street and Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen through Jan. 19. There are three showings daily and six on Saturdays and Sundays. For further information about the movie and the show times, log on to www.anytownusathemovie.com.


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