“Knock Down The House” is a superb survey of how to affect hearts and minds in latter-day retail politics. “We have to have the courage to say, ‘We can do better,’” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says early in director-writer Rachel Lears and editor-writer Robin Blotnick’s brisk, bountiful, bracing two-years-in-the-following vérité documentary “Knock Down the House,” a chronicle of four progressive women, from the Bronx (Ocasio-Cortez), West Virginia (Paula Jean Swearengin), Nevada (Amy Vilela) and Missouri (Cori Bush), running against entrenched, often self-serving incumbents in the House of Representatives in 2018.
“Because the alternative is no one.” Someone adds: “So, literally anyone could, right?” And when pressed at a gathering on why Democrats should sacrifice long-established Democrats to newcomers, she says, “Well, if they’re good enough? They’ll win.” (Blotnick told Vulture that he expected Ocasio-Cortez to lose: “I really thought she was the kind of candidate who was going to lose her first race and then go on to great things down the road.”)
When we see twenty-eight-year-old Ocasio-Cortez at her job as a bartender, it’s a past-present conundrum: caught in those motions, at a job, which then alternates with glimpses of the early going of going door-to-door in her district, often to the confusion of potential voters (registered Democrats who voted Trump; language barriers such as Greek). That’s who she was; that’s who she might have remained, rather than a firebrand of the 116th Congress. While she becomes the fulcrum of the narrative, the other three are standouts as well, reflecting Ocasio-Cortez’s statement in one meeting, “This isn’t about electing me to Congress. It’s about electing us to Congress.” (“Knock Down the House” sold to Netflix at Sundance for $10 million.) 86m. (Ray Pride)
“Knock Down the House” is at Landmark Renaissance Place and on Netflix.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.