“Knock Down the House” knocked my socks off


“Change takes courage.”

~ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hangs her head and takes a deep breath as she sits on a small white cement bench outside of the United States Capitol Building. Only five days before she had won the seat in the House of Representatives for the 14th congressional district of New York. As tourists walk around in the background, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez begins to tell a story– tears running down her face. When she was only five years old her father took her to Washington D.C., to the epicenter of politics in our nation, and said, “this all belongs to us.”

Knock Down The House, released May 1 on Netflix, documents four women’s journies to ensure that what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s father said would forever remain true.

The story of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin begins in a small room in Frankfort, Kentucky where groups Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress pick candidates to endorse in their fight to Capitol Hill. The reason they’re doing this all? Because these ladies aren’t fighting because they want to end up on Capitol Hill.

Waitress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is fighting because she believes that everyday Americans deserve to be represented by everyday Americans. The daughter of a coal miner, Paula Jean Swearengin is running for every person in West Virginia who has or knows someone diagnosed with cancer due to the activities of coal companies in the state. A registered nurse, Cori Bush, is running because she has seen with her own eyes that the problems in her district can be solved by the people of her district. And grieving mother from Nevada, Amy Vilela, is running because her daughter died in the hospital after being refused treatment due to her lack of insurance; Amy refuses to let her daughter have died for nothing.

The documentary travels both time and space to capture the story of these four women; however, there is no feeling of missing any part of their story. The battles these women face parallel each other so heavily it helps the changes in time and space feel flawless. By clearly labeling changes in time and candidate, the producer, Rachel Lears, continues to ensure that you never have to pause in the story because you feel lost.

The main focus of the story though was on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While each of these women was fighting battles against well-established career politicians, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s fight against Representative Joseph Crowley, who had not had a primary challenger in fourteen years, was a showdown the entire nation was watching.

In all the time spent during the film on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez vs. Crowley, the documentary never vilified him. They laid out facts. They showed the town hall meetings, the debates, the parades, all exactly how they had happened. And while the documentary had you undeniably fighting for the underdog, I appreciated the producer’s restraint in humiliating the opponent. By not vilifying Crowley, the documentary gains that much more credibility and honor– a testament to the core of these women and their politics.

What the documentary did showcase, however, was the raw emotion these women carried with them through this journey. Rachel Lears unabashedly displays how raw– how human– these women are. From tears and fear and insecurity to triumphs and the way they unwaveringly supported each other, all of it was a testament to the unified platform these women stood on: humanity.

Each interview, each iteration, each second drew me further into the stories of these women. I knew how this story ended, but I just couldn’t help but root for them all.

Each interview, each iteration, each second drew me further into the stories of these women. I knew how this story ended, but I just couldn’t help but root for them all.”

As I had prepared to watch this documentary I called my mother– who has more of a disenchantment with politics then myself– in to see if she wanted to watch it with me. After seeing the trailer Netflix provides, she decided to join.

We sat mostly in silence for the next hour and twenty-seven minutes.

Then, as the final credits began to roll, I turned to my mom and said, “I want to make a difference like her, Mom.”