We are so excited to see the trailer Netflix released of the film Knock Down the House.
The film captures the story of four working class women candidates who ran for Congress in the midterm elections in 2018 - Cori Bush (1st Congressional District, Missouri), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York 14th Congressional District), Paula-Jean Swearengin (U.S. Senate Candidate from West Virginia), and Amy Vilela (Nevada 4th Congressional District). They were four of the record numbers in 2018 who organized grassroots campaigns, rejected corporate PAC money and challenged the notion that everyday people can run successful campaigns against sitting incumbents.
At first glance, we thought we knew what this film was about - the progressive candidates in the Democratic party pushing the Establishment further to the left. And, of course, about the big star that is AOC. Those are parts of the story, but not the whole thing.
That knee-jerk reaction was a lot like the way we often consume news online - a glance at the hashtag or the headline seems like enough information to tell you whose side it’s from and whose side the author is on.
But documentary film is like the antidote to the Tweet and the headline. It offers deeper insight into a story to give it meaning and context. In this film we meet women who don’t see themselves represented by their government and so make the leap, at great personal sacrifice, to run for office. We can all relate to their stories - when the tragedy of a personal loss or the anger at a grave injustice moves us to action. This is not a film about division, rather a reminder of the vision of what our ideal government is supposed to be - by the people, for the people.
The director, Rachel Lears, told us about how after a screening, “I was talking to a republican voter who was in tears, and at the same moment, a democratic voter was talking to Amy Vilela about how much her story meant to her. What we hope this film will do is get them to talk to each other.”
Film has the power to move and to teach and to open an opportunity to see something familiar in a new way. It’s why we do the work we do. We are writing a community screening guide for adults which will be available on May 1st with the Netflix release of the film, and later a guide for youth-led screenings, with classroom lessons to follow.