For an insider’s look at democracy and how regular people can make a difference, Knock Down the House is the documentary to watch.
Filmmaker Rachel Lears got in contact with the Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress after the 2016 elections, two political organizations, to find candidates worthy of her new documentary. Lears narrowed it down to the four women featured running grassroots campaigns for the 2018 midterm elections. What follows is an in-depth look at how they were called to action without having aspirations to be career politicians and how this journey looked for them.
We met Amy Vilela, who was running in Las Vegas, Cori Bush in St. Louis, Missouri, Paula Jeanswearegin in West Virginia and the most known of them all, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the Bronx and Queens, NY. Each of their stories was compelling in their own way.
Vilela was inspired to make a difference when her daughter passed away due to a lack of health insurance and the slow response to treat her.
Cori Bush was angry after the unfair and tragic shooting in Ferguson of Michael Brown and wasn’t satisfied with the status quo who was representing her in Congress.
Paula Jeansweargin wanted to make a difference to her town and show the world they were more than people with bad teeth, uneducated, and hillbillies in the south.
Alexandro Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that Joe Crowley, her opponent, represented Queens and the Bronx and lived in Virginia. How could someone fight for a community they didn’t live in?
What we see is that all these women wanted change in their communities. With their stories, it enables the average American to get up and do something themselves. These women didn’t have corporate sponsors; they had a strong will and support from Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress to put their message out there.
The documentary tries to influence the viewer emotionally with the film score at the appropriate times but that doesn’t deter from the message of the film. What stands out the most is the behind the scenes for each candidate while canvassing throughout their campaigns. What they all did was change the conversation in their districts about what needed to be re-examined. Seeing them speak their minds was a testament that anyone with a strong desire and motivation can make a difference in their city.
While there was more specific attention to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez because she ultimately won the mid-term and landed in the White House, we were still entrenched in Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jeanswearegin’s stories.
Knock Down the House is the epitome of an underdog story that has just started. Ocasio-Cortez says at the beginning of the film: “How do you prepare for something you don’t know is coming?” The other women might not have won, but this is only the beginning of what’s to come in 2020 and beyond. You will be left empowered at the end of this documentary. They will inspire you to do something.