Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Filmmaker Rachel Lears Showcases New Progressive Voices in “Knock Down the House”

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | July 10th, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Writer-producer-director-photographer Rachel Lears teams with writer-producer-editor (and spouse) Robin Blotnick and producer Sarah Olson on advocacy doc “Knock Down the House,” now streaming on Netflix following a world premiere in January at the Sundance Film Festival. A direct response to the election of Donald Trump, Lears follows the grassroots campaigns of a quartet of political newcomers: Cori Bush in Missouri, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, Paula Jean Swearengin in West Virginia, and Amy Vilela in Nevada. The result is an energizing portrait of working class, mad-as-hell action -- and the birth of a national celebrity.

“Knock Down the House” invites its quartet of progressives to articulate the personal reasons that inspired each woman to run in Democratic primaries versus establishment candidates. The results of the midterm elections are in the rearview, and of the film’s subjects, only Ocasio-Cortez succeeded. AOC’s history-making bid to unseat the ten-term incumbent and Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (who is consistently seen in the film as an absolute fool) is accompanied by her close-up-ready charisma, moving her story into the central spot. Had any of the others won their races, the film would have undoubtedly been shaped into a somewhat different narrative.

But don’t fault Lears for her filmmaking tactics. Many documentarians collect footage during time-sensitive events with unknown outcomes -- embracing the reality that a great deal of the storytelling will be shaped in post-production. The bigger picture for the filmmakers, one imagines, was clearly not originally meant to be a personality profile of Ocasio-Cortez. Blotnick switches among the most compelling aspects of each journey, but there is no denying AOC’s commanding presence. Vilela describes the painful experience that inspired her decision. And all of the women leverage identification with specific issues and the common folks at the bottom of the dogpile.

So many political documentaries trade on the razzle-dazzle of fame, power, and media coverage that the nuts and bolts of on-the-ground strategies are treated as a kind of sorcery practiced by wizards who more often than not prefer to stay behind the curtain. In the case of “Knock Down the House,” the activist groups Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress are seen and heard, but the details of how potential candidates are selected and vetted remain murky and mysterious. Lears introduces a few intriguing players, including Corbin Trent and Saikat Chakrabarti, and they at least offer direct answers about their end goals if not their formulae.

Lears ends with the election night outcomes of the Democrat-versus-Democrat primary challenges. As a result, the content of the film doesn’t fully take the deep dive into the general contest that would more directly address the national climate/snapshot regarding the Trump presidency. That November scorecard would see a net gain of 40 seats for the Democrats in the House of Representatives and a net gain of 2 seats for the Republicans in the Senate. Short of the complete Blue Wave victory sought by the Democrats, all eyes now turn toward 2020. As AOC says in the movie, “...in order for one of us to make it through, 100 of us have to try.” 

Recently in:

COVID-19, or Coronavirus, has started to make its rounds in the United States. As of Tuesday, Mar. 17, three residents in North Dakota, 11 in South Dakota, and over 60 in Minnesota have been confirmed to have the disease. The…

by Sonja ThompsonDebra Ruh is the CEO and Founder of Ruh Global IMPACT, a consulting firm that strives to help clients amplify their impact and become disability inclusion leaders. She also serves as the Chair of the United…

Best Bets

Ladies Ag Night

by HPR Staff

Thursday, March 19, 4:30- 8 pm1609 19th Ave N, FargoCass County Soil Conservation District is hosting their annual Ladies’ Ag Night supper event. This event has a goal of bringing together multiple generations of women involved…

by Sofia Makarova and Massimo Sassi The global pandemic is an incredibly challenging time for many. Nearlyone in every three Americans’ jobs have been affected, whether a temporary layoff, a permanent job loss, or a reduction in…

Democratic Socialism Rescues Disaster Capitalism—AgainOur elected representatives are currently appropriating trillions of taxpayer’s dollars to save our economy from the ravages of COVID-19 and disaster capitalism. Here we go…

To say that this year’s Bartenders Battle was the best display of talent in the six years since its creation would be an understatement and a disservice to not only the bartenders who made it into the competition, but also the…

It goes without saying that Valentine’s Day is the most profitable of all the holidays and the one with the most tortured history, literally. It is confusing how an ancient Roman festival that involved sacrificing animals and…

Fargo obviously loves their classical music. Audiences have still turned out during the 2019-2020 season of the Sanford Masterworks Series performed by the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra despite an unrelenting winter. That…

The most compelling and powerful idea in Kitty Green’s compelling and powerful film “The Assistant” resides in the network of complicity protecting the predator/stand-in for Harvey Weinstein and those like him. Green…

This weekend, the 10th Annual Unglued Craft Fest will be held at the Plains Art Museum, featuring over 70 local and regional artists selling handmade items. Though most are Fargo-Moorhead residents, artists from Minneapolis, Sioux…

Theatre

Fargo Film Festival 2020

by HPR Contributor

by Dominic EricksonThis March, the Fargo Film Festival will celebrate its 20th year of entertaining die-hard cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike. The festival begins on March 17 and concludes March 21. The event is once again…

by Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comAdam Quesnell's last show at The Cellar beneath the Front Street Taproom in Fargo was in early September of 2018. He was embarking on a seminal move from Minneapolis to LA. As always, his comedy was…

by Jill Finkelsonjsfinkelson99@gmail.comFar North Spirits, located up in Hallock, MN, is the northernmost distillery in the lower 48. They may be young in the distillery world but the farm and the spirit reach far into the past.…

Wellness

Discover Yoga Differently

by HPR Contributor

by Laurie J Bakeremsdatter@gmail.com Part of modern yoga is participating in the world around us. We live in a time of upheaval in society and nature, and of great suffering in humans of all ages. Most of us perceive this suffering…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

#14 of On Tyranny: Establish a private life. – “Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware on a regular basis. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using…