Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a landmark victory for a New York congress seat in November. Luckily filmmaker Rachel Lears was following her since she announced her candidacy. She also followed three other women running to unseat incumbents and Knock Down the House is an inspiring testament that real people can stand up.
The other candidates are Cori Bush in Missouri, Paula Jean Swearengin in West Virginia and Amy Villela in Las Vegas. Ocasio-Cortez gets the most screen time, but like Orny Adams In Comedian, the other candidates make an impact too. There may be less footage of them or less action in their narratives, but the scenes they have make such an impact they don’t really need more. Villela’s story of her daughter being refused hospital care for having no insurance is all you need to understand her platform. No amount of scenes can surpass the impact of losing a daughter.
Ocasio-Cortez already has a lot of attention on her but Knock Down the House captures great personal moments along the way. I love how being a waitress steeled her for the political machine, how she owns the debates with her opponent and his surrogate, and how she pounded the pavement herself.
There are lots of life lessons here. For every 10 rejections you reach one person, and that’s how you win. If you only need 1250 signatures to get on the ballot, get 10,000 anyway and go through them all with a fine tooth comb to make sure your opponent can’t waste your campaign time fixing clerical errors. Villela also made her own fundraising phone calls which is a Herculean effort. I wouldn’t be comfortable phone banking but it works.
You can check the real life election results and find out which of the candidates won their seats. Even for the ones who didn’t, this movie will live forever as a testament to their visions and message.