Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 2019. Artemis Rising Productions, Atlas Films, Jubilee Films. Screenplay by Robin Blotnick, Rachel Lears. Cinematography by Rachel Lears. Produced by Robin Blotnick, Rachel Lears, Sarah Olson. Music by Ryan Blotnick. Film Editing by Robin Blotnick. North Carolina Film Critics Awards 2019.
With the election of Donald Trump representing the rising tide of right-wing nationalist feelings sweeping the nation, Democrats look within their own party to see how they can come up with solutions for a stronger result in 2020, with one of their first efforts pointed at the 2018 Congressional midterm elections. A grassroots organization is looking around the country for candidates who will be willing to run in the midterm primaries and challenge Democrat representatives who have held their seats unchallenged for too long; the result sees unlikely candidates come out of the woodwork and this energetic, bright documentary focuses on four women who put their fears aside and go for the gold, each of them inspired by events in their own lives. Cori Bush saw what happened to her Missouri community after the shooting of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, Amy Vilela lost her twenty-two year old daughter to a pulmonary embolism because the young woman didn’t have insurance when admitted into a hospital, Paula Jean Swearengin is a coal miner’s daughter who has seen the natural beauty and resources of West Virginia destroyed by lack of opportunity and the poverty that comes with it, and, most famously, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has the experience of working doubt shifts at a bar to keep her family afloat after her father’s death, and knows herself not to be a rare case of struggle. In all but one case, these women are going up against male incumbents, having to prove themselves better suited to the job to voting bodies that have no knowledge of them and are very comfortable with their current candidates. This film does not delve deep into its subjects and never feels like it ever intended to: it’s not shallow but it is done in the spirit of celebration and encouragement, any cynicism about justice in the American system of government is kept at a minimum while focus is placed on admiring the hard work and determination of these four politicians. Ocasio-Cortez gets the lion’s share of attention, easily understandable because she is the most famous of the four and (spoiler alert) the only one who wins; watching her debate incumbent candidate Joe Crowley makes for a political Tortoise and the Hare fable, he’s confident enough of his pending victory, almost to the point of smug, to always treat her with deference that borders on patronizing, while she reveals that her near-manic energy, which could at first seem like a disadvantage, is actually in support of a great deal of preparation and inner calm.