Rachel Lears highlights the grassroots campaign of four inspiring women in Knock Down The House
When director Rachel Lears started following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2016, no one knew how it would end up. She gained access to Ocasio-Cortez easily because they were all New York based. What she didn’t expect was, she was documenting something for the history books. Two years later, Ocasio-Cortez would go on to unseat Congressman Joe Crowley and became the youngest woman in Congress.
Knock Down The House follows this groundbreaking history and the women behind it. The women who inject new life into our wilted system and watching it, inject life into the viewer.
Lears set out to follow political outsiders, she didn’t intend for them all to be women, it just happened that way. And so, we follow Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, Paula Jean Swearingen, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who set out to shake things up a bit, but more importantly, show how they connect with the average American. The working class American. They are the underdog.
Vilela works her way through Nevada, campaigning health care. She hits when candidly talks about losing her child to a system that failed her after the hospital refused to treat her daughter when Vilela couldn’t provide proof of insurance. It’s a story that is all too familiar. I’ve heard it. It happened to my friend while here on vacation. Basic human rights. Basic health care for all. Vilela wants to fix it.
The star of the documentary, however, is Ocasio-Cortez. From the get-go, she has drive and magnetism. She’s still working as a bartender when we meet her. Crowley is powerful, he’s the Goliath and no one would dare run against him. Except, Ocasio-Cortez. A female. A woman of color – her parents are from Puerto Rico. She’s not white and she has no political connections.
Lears follows her into the neighborhoods and she simply listens. She appeals. Her charisma shines. She is magnetic. We see her in the Bronx and Queens. The latter is where she hit and they showed up to help her win that 57.5% to defeat Crowley.
The documentary manages to capture and build anxiety as we await the results. Only Ocasio-Cortez wins. But what a win it is.
“We’re not running to make a statement. We’re not running to pressure the incumbent to the left. We’re running to win.” Ocasio-Cortez says at one point. It’s a win against the system and the corruption. The dark money that runs deep.
Knock Down The House is every bit the inspiring documentary. It’s motivating. There’s an emotional surge that passes through you as you watch from the opening frame to the end, following this journey of all of them.
It gives the viewer hope – unless you voted for Crowley, then you’ll probably have turned off. Tune in and feel ignited. Lears has given us something to prove that we can indeed Knock Down The House…or it’s a start. It’s a step in the right direction of where we need to be heading towards 2020.
Knock Down The House is on limited release across the country and streaming on Netflix