‘Knock Down the House’ filmmaker wants to ‘encourage political participation’ 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the first candidate director Rachel Lears met, in March 2017. (Supplied)
Updated 04 May 2019
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‘Knock Down the House’ filmmaker wants to ‘encourage political participation’ 

  • Aside from successful campaigner Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Lears’ documentary followed Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin
  • The candidates came from different backgrounds but represented the same ideals — they refused corporate donations

DUBAI: American documentary “Knock Down the House” created a buzz in the film industry when it had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

The film, about four female US primary candidates, has an approval rating of 100 percent on review site Rotten Tomatoes. 

Director Rachel Lears said the response to the film had made her hope it will encourage political participation.

“I do hope it can be a tool for people who are organizing for change in our government and in our democratic process, but also hope it can encourage people to engage with the political process who might not otherwise feel left out,” Lears told Arab News. 

Director Rachel Lears (L) with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (Supplied)

Lears said she was inspired to make the documentary after the 2016 US presidential elections.  

“After the 2016 election a lot of ordinary people wanted to get involved in politics,” she said, explaining that there was a “wave” of women, people of color, as well as political outsiders and first-time candidates who stood to compete in the 2018 midterm elections.  

Lears believes this was influenced by the Trump administration’s policies, which left some communities feeling under-represented. “I was really interested in highlighting the work of people who were working really hard to connect the struggles of different communities around the country.” 

Aside from successful campaigner Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Lears’ documentary followed Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin. The candidates came from different backgrounds but represented the same ideals — they refused corporate donations and aimed to represent the average working-class person.

Paula Jean Swearengin is a social and environmental activist and politician from West Virginia. (Supplied)
Amy Vilela is a healthcare activist running who is running for Congress in Nevada. (Supplied)
Cori Bush unsuccessfully went against US Representative Lacy Clay in Missouri. (Supplied)

Lears said she wanted to focus on those who had “grass-roots” campaigns. “I was looking for people who would be really interesting to watch no matter what happens with their elections. Of course, there was a very real possibility that all four of them might have lost.”

Ocasio-Cortez was the first candidate Lears met, in March 2017. Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic Party’s primary election for New York on June 26, 2018, defeating Joe Crowley in what was widely seen as the biggest victory in the 2018 US mid-term elections.

Knock Down the House was released on May 1 on Netflix. 


What We Are Reading Today: The River Ki by Sawako Ariyoshi

Updated 25 May 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: The River Ki by Sawako Ariyoshi

The River Ki, short and swift and broad like most Japanese rivers, flows into the sea not far south of Osaka. On its journey seaward, it passes through countryside that has long been at the heart of the Japanese tradition. 

The River Ki dominates the lives of the people who live in its fertile valley and imparts a vital strength to the three women, mother, daughter and granddaughter, around whom this novel is built.

It provides them with the courage to cope, in their different ways, with the unprecedented changes that occurred in Japan between the last years of the last century and the middle of this century.

Sawako Ariyoshi, one of Japan’s most successful modern novelists, describes this social and cultural revolution largely through the eyes of Hana, a woman with the vision and integrity to understand the inevitability of the death of the traditional order in Japan, says a review published on googlereads.com.

Ariyoshi writes with a love for detail bound to a broader understanding of the importance of the geographical and biological forces that mold her characters — and the result is a story that flows with all the vitality of The River Ki itself.