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Hot Docs 2019 Review: Knock Down the House

Knock Down the House delivers a thoroughly engaging and entertaining ride through a less seen side of American politics.

The Netflix documentary Knock Down the House, playing at this year’s festival, shows the audience a rarely seen side of American politics. In a field dominated by rich, old white men, this film follows 4 women of varying ethnic backgrounds and education, that are all firmly part of the American working class, as they attempt to overturn the applecart and run for election to congress in the 2016 primary elections. Nevada candidate Amy Vilela, West Virginian Paula Jean Swearengin, St Louis Missouri’s Cori Bush and the most famous of the group, New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Through each of the women’s involvement with the non-profit political group Brand New Congress, a group dedicated to getting as many working class civilians back into the congress without the financial aide of any lobbyists or corporation, director Rachel Lears selected the 4 women to focus in on based on their backgrounds. But early on in the film it becomes quickly evident that based on Ocasio-Cortez’s landmark victory the film is going to focus on her story as the primary, and that’s the right decision for the audience. Ocasio-Cortez is just as engaging, charming and eloquent in her personal moments as she is on the big stage, and the sequence where she finds out about her big win is thankfully all caught on camera as we get to revel in her pure joy.

Amy Vilela’s, a still grieving mother who lost her daughter 2 years prior due to archaic medical insurance requirements, is a in fascinating study of a driven woman looking to honor the past and makes changes that will stick. Coal Miner’s Daughter Paula Jean and St Louis activist Cori don’t get as much screen time as the other pair, but the film does show us the results off all their effort.

All of these women’s efforts are to be applauded and they all deserve the same amount of praise that Ocasio-Cortez has in her win. Knock Down the House gives them the respect they all have clearly earned.