Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Knock Down the House, the must-watch documentary of 2019: “For one of us to make it through, a hundred of us have to try.” Reviewed by Katy Roxburgh
Last month Netflix released the outstanding documentary ‘Knock Down the House’. Produced and directed by Rachel Lears, the documentary follows the fearless journeys into US politics of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Amy Vilela and Paula Jean Swearengin as ordinary working-class women and women of colour.
The four women in ‘Knock Down the House’, are self-described “everyday Americans” fighting for better representation of everyday Americans. They challenge political convention, institutions and expectations to better represent their communities in government.
The film has had huge success in America in opening up a discussion on women’s role in politics and public service. And, last week, 50:50 had the privilege of being invited by Netflix and the non-profit Doc Society to discuss how we might replicate that success here in the UK: to encourage more women to enter into politics, not just in Parliament but at a local and community level also.
I found the movie profoundly moving, with an incredibly emotional ending. The film captures very honestly the disappointment of the women who didn’t win their seats and the raw passion for the work they were doing. They all had deeply personal reasons for running.
Equally, when Alexandria wins despite all the odds you see how genuinely blown away she is and how much it means not only to her but to her supporters.
Interestingly, the film doesn’t pigeon-hole women as candidates running on women’s issues, it’s about much more than that. It’s that these weren’t the people who were supposed to end up in Congress, their opponents didn’t see them or their support coming.
Cori Bush noted in the Q&A at the screening that when she started out she had NO idea how to even start, she quite literally googled “how do I run for Congress”. So for 50:50 supporters the movie tackles issues we are all passionate about – how to help mentor and guide women through a process which some might argue is unnecessarily complicated.
The film has already won Prizes and broken records: it netted a reported $10-million purchase price from Netflix – a record for a documentary. What other firsts may it inspire?