Film review: Knock Down the House (2019)

I just watched this documentary that follows four insurgent women candidates who bucked the Democratic party establishment by challenging long-standing incumbents in primary elections in 2018. The four are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York City, Amy Vilela in Las Vegas, Nevada, Cori Bush in St Louis, Missouri and Paula Jean Swearingen in West Virginia. The film follows them from the time they declare their candidacies until the primary results are announced.

It is an interesting look at grass roots politics because insurgent candidates do not have the backing of the party consultants and big money PACs. What they did have was the support of smaller progressive groups that were able to provide them with volunteers. It was encouraging to see such a large and diverse group of young people getting involved in these campaigns. There seemed to be a lot of overlap between these campaigns and Bernie Sanders’ group Our Revolution that threw its support behind these young progressives as part of its strategy to take progressive policies to every part of the country.

Of the four, only Ocasio-Cortez won but as she herself says, “For one of us to make it through, a hundred of us need to try.” The film shows her with her family and her partner and home videos of her as a young girl. It shows her working at her job as a waitress in what looks like a modest restaurant and doing all manner of clean up tasks in addition to serving customers.

To my mind, she seemed the most charismatic of the four, able to switch rapidly from smiling and joking to speaking articulately on issues. You can see how people would be drawn to her as a person and to her campaign. Republicans and the Democratic party establishment are right to be worried that she represents a new breed of personable, articulate, unabashed progressives who cannot be cowed, coopted, or bought.

Here’s the trailer.


  1. consciousness razor says

    AOC 2024. I would mark the ballot right now, and I doubt that will change, since few others in the party even come close.
    It doesn’t really matter if the winning ticket in 2020 is Sanders/Warren, which is the best I can hope for. They just need to carry the ball for a few years, do something good with it, then pass it off to the younger generation. In keeping with her quote, we also have to start supporting a hundred others, so one might become a decent running mate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *