‘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

‘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: Texas Flood

Updated 10 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Texas Flood

AUTHORS: Alan Paul & Andy Aledort

Texas Flood by Alan Paul and Andy Aledort is a phenomenal biography of guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan that hits on every level, including interviews with those closest to him.

A review in The New York Times said: “An oral history is only as good as its sources, and Texas Flood is thorough and far-reaching, with Vaughan’s bandmates, crew and family taking center stage.”  It added: “Especially fascinating is Vaughan’s complicated relationship with his older brother, Jimmie,  and Vaughan’s ill-fated role in David Bowie’s band, an apparent big break that he quit because he was told he could not promote his debut album.”

The review said: “If there’s a disappointment in the book, it’s the lack of Vaughan’s own voice. Aledort interviewed him several times during his lifetime, but since those conversations were focused on specific projects, the quotes pulled for Texas Flood don’t leave much impression. Both authors are accomplished musicians and longtime contributors to Guitar World magazine, so occasionally things get a little gear-heavy.”