Title: Knock Down the House
Release Date: May 1, 2019
Director: Rachel Lears
Production Company: Jubilee Films | Atlas Films | Artemis Rising
In 2018, progressive candidates – especially people of color and women of all races – ran in great numbers for national offices. Many of them had to face established Democratic incumbents who had grown used to not being challenged in primary elections. This movie focus on four of them: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Amy Vilela of Nevada, Cori Bush of Missouri, and Paula Jean Swearengin of West Virginia.
Ocasio-Cortez is now the most famous of the four, and it’s interesting to see high-quality film of her early days of knocking doors and anxieties about running, long before she became the nationally-recognized AOC. Her opponent, veteran congressional representative Joe Crowley comes off as a bigger jerk than I realized, refusing to attend an early debate, and speaking condescendingly of Ocasio-Cortez in a later debate.
I hope this isn’t consider a spoiler, but Ocasio-Cortez is the only one of the four who won her primary and general elections. Nevertheless, the experience of the other three women in their campaigns is illuminating. Vilela is a single mother who lost her daughter Shalynne to a treatable illness that wasn’t addressed because she didn’t have health insurance. This makes her very impassioned for healthcare for all. Bush is mobilized by the Ferguson movement to take on the complacent incumbent Lacy Clay, a member of a family dynasty that has held the seat since 1969. Swearengin comes from West Virginia’s coal country and is mobilized by the many people who’ve contracted cancer from the poisonous environment.
The movie is a very honest, emotional, and inspirational look at these candidates and their campaigns, even if most of them ended in loss. The movie definitely documents the beginning of a movement. Swearengin is the Democratic candidate for Senate in 2020 and Bush is again challenging Lacy Clay in the Missouri 1st Congressional District primary. Hundreds of other progressive candidates are running to against complacent Democrats and downright cruel Republicans. So get out and vote for them!