When filming “Knock Down the House,” Rachel Lears was worried at one point that none of the women she followed in their campaigns for Congress would be successful.
But then Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled off her stunning upset in the Bronx, becoming the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Representatives.
“It was a really incredible experience going through that election day and night with her,” Lears told TheWrap’s Steve Pond at the Sundance Film Festival. “I was a little delirious filming for 30 straight days, probably, but it was a pretty amazing night.”
Along with Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign, “Knock Down the House” follows three other progressive women with working class backgrounds who, after Donald Trump’s election, decided to run for Congress in the 2018 midterms. As they jumped into the election, they faced incumbents and other contenders that had the support of the Democratic party.
St. Louis nurse Cori Bush ran against nine-term Congressman Lacy Clay for a seat once held by Clay’s father. Paula Jean Swearengin, the daughter of a West Virginia coal miner, tried to run against the centrist Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin. And Amy Vilela, a Nevada mother whose daughter died after health insurance delays prevented blood clot treatment, ran for a vacant House seat against Steven Horsford, who held the seat in the past. All three lost.
“After going through two losses with Paula and Amy, it was really devastating because both of them were really fighting for the life and death stakes of their families and communities,” Lears said. “You just don’t know. There’s no polling in these Congressional races […] I was perhaps concerned about how to tell that story but at the same time the characters and their personal stories are so dramatic and relatable on a human level.”
See Lears’ remarks in the video above.