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Rachel Lears’ Knock Down the House | 2019 Sundance Film Festival

Knock Down the House is a rousing documentary about the future of our country, guided by the emboldened voices of four progressive female congressional candidates in the 2018 primary. Chief among them is beacon-of-hope Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC), who tells us, “For every 10 rejections you get one acceptance. And that’s how you win everything.” Her words resonate especially when the other three candidates—Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin, each worthy of coverage in their own right—lose out to the old guard. Producers Sarah Olson, Robin Blotnic, and producer/director Rachel Lears achieve a mix of optimism and heartbreak by juxtaposing three unsuccessful campaigns with AOC’s DC-shaking victory.

Among the film’s most astonishing moments are AOC’s two “debates” with establishment bigwig Joe Crowley. In the first, Crowley doesn’t even show up, forcing the young candidate to debate against an underprepared local representative; both are pitiful displays of the insidious apathy — and lack of respect for women in general — that has infected our nation’s political system. By-and-far the most interesting ‘making-of’ doc at Sundance this year, Knock Down the House lived up to its title (Netflix landed the docu for a cool 10 million). When Representative Ocasio-Cortez herself skyped in after the movie for a Q&A, an interactive element was added to the already-unforgettable history of this far-from-over David-and Goliath struggle. You can check out the skype call below:

Dylan Kai Dempsey is a New York-based writer/filmmaker. His reviews have been published in Vanity Fair, Variety, No Film School, and He’s also developing a graphic novel as well as his own award-winning pilot script, #Likes4Lucas. He began as a development intern at Bonafide Productions in L.A. and Rainmark Productions in London.

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