Knock Down The House
Netflix’s new documentary, Knock Down the House directed by Rachel Lears, covers the grassroots campaigns ran by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Paula Jean Swearengin and Cori Bush. These candidates from all over the country were sought out by Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, two political action committees that seek to remove “the corrupting influence of money in politics” as described by Corbin Trent, a member of Justice Democrats.
The documentary opens on AOC, the current congresswoman representing America’s 14th Congressional district, which consists of Queens and The Bronx. Alexandria is applying makeup and expressing nervousness over the uphill battle of running against a white man, who has run unopposed for 14 years. The credits introduce our main players, and their campaign videos that look they are primarily taken on smartphones. The documentary did offer more background/speaking time to AOC, the only candidate to win their respective elections.
The movie is only 90 minutes long, but is well paced and the ending feels earned. The editing is very cleverly done, using voice over of the candidates explaining why they’re fighting for their community, while showing images of said community. The most moving example is that of Cori Bush’s community, where Michael Brown was murdered in 2014. These women have been doing the work to gain trust and familiarity in their community, and it proves that you don’t have to be a career politician to make a difference.
This opportunity to see inside AOCs daily life, with her bartending job, campaign and relationships, is refreshing. Time and time again, people tell these women they have guts, and they don’t always mean it to be complimentary, but it’s true. Highlighting the ways American politicians disregard the needs of their constituents is difficult when those politicians have the entire establishment behind them. There’s a portion where AOC is sitting on her couch, in her apartment that has a kitchen smaller than mine, explaining everything wrong with her opponent by simply analyzing his campaign flyers. The difference between these candidates and establishment Democrats is stark, and that shows in how this political documentary portrays a realistic government, where there are many injustices. It’s also different in that despite not all of the amazing women who ran won, they still made a difference.
The documentary best political moments aren’t scripted and in front of a podium, written weeks in advance by someone else. These inspiring political moments come when they’re in the car on the way to meet with constituents, when they’re cooking dinner, when they’re getting they’re getting ready to face the issues, head on.
I’m giving Knock Down the House 7.5/10, and would recommend this documentary to anyone who is feeling discouraged by the current state of the American government, as well as anyone who feels the need to dismiss AOC out of hand. Watching Knock Down the House accomplished the very laborious task of making something political be uplifting, especially when everything surrounding government feels so toxic right now. The people can run, and the people can win.
Written by Merlin Garcia ( IG@merlsanity, Twitter @scriptedmerlin)