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Behind the scenes with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez before anyone knew her name

Added 05-02-19 08:59:02am EST - “Rachel Lears' documentary 'Knock Down the House' captures a political phenom on the rise ?" and three other women running for office for the first time” -


Posted By TheNewsCommenter: From “Behind the scenes with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez before anyone knew her name”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

Before millions of people were following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Instagram and Twitter, documentary filmmaker Rachel Lears was following her around New York: As she schlepped plastic buckets of ice up from the basement to the bar where she worked, as she contemplated running for Congress against the supposedly-unseatable incumbent Joe Crowley, as she sat in her apartment and psyched herself up for a debate by declaring, out loud, “I can do this. I am experienced enough to do this. I am knowledgeable enough to do this. I am prepared enough to do this. I am mature enough to do this. I am brave enough to do this.”

That Ocasio-Cortez became one of the four subjects in Lears’ film, Knock Down the House, was in part a geographic fluke: Lears is Brooklyn-based and was funding her film with $28,000 raised on Kickstarter with her producing partner, editor, and husband, Robin Blotnick. That funding enabled the team, with their toddler in tow, to cover three other candidates across the country: Paula Jean Swearengin of West Virginia, a coal miner’s daughter taking on the coal industry-backed Joe Manchin III; Cori Bush, a St. Louis nurse who protested in Ferguson; and Nevada’s Amy Vilela, who describes how her daughter died after she was denied what would have been life-saving tests because she didn’t have health insurance. Everyone in the bunch lost save, of course, for Ocasio-Cortez, whose stunning upset catapulted her to national fame.

Speaking with ThinkProgress at Netflix’s offices in Washington, D.C., Lears insisted that the film was not contingent upon any candidate’s victory (though it seems fair to speculate Netflix isn’t buying this doc at Sundance for a record-setting $10 million without the star power of AOC).

The dozens of candidates Lears considered — sent her way by the progressive organizations Brand New Progress and Congress Justice Democrats — included “not only people that were going to be interesting to watch win or lose,” she said, but races “where you have an outsider candidate challenging a political machine, so that in the process, we’re going to be able to explore how power works in this country, and really show what it looks like for a grassroots campaign to challenge that.”

ThinkProgress: I want to start with the first shot of the film: AOC doing her makeup and she’s talking about how it’s so relatively easy for male candidates.


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