HomeMovies'Knock Down the House' Review: A Must-See Political Documentary

‘Knock Down the House’ Review: A Must-See Political Documentary

Knock Down the House AOC
Photo Credit: Netflix

The release of the Netflix film Knock Down the House is in many ways extremely timely. It’s main focus, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is currently in focus for much of the nation as well. The story of the plucky upstart battling down the strong establishment is gripping for many reasons, but mainly because this film is fairly a-political. It does not focus on the battle between Democrats and Republicans, nor does frequently involve President Trump in its story. It is a factual, in-depth look at how grassroots campaigns are organized, and why people are feeling the urge to run, despite the long shot odds of winning.

The documentary opens on the challenges on running for office. Challenges faced as women, challenges as a grassroots organizer, and the challenge of overcoming the “long shot” mentality. For those who feel that they don’t know enough about politics to enjoy this movie, fear not. The film does a great job of introducing you to what would become the historic primary season of 2018. The early focus is on AOC, and her early forays into the world of politics.

Director Rachel Lears introduces us to the brand new Congress and justice Democrats, and explores their goal: remove wealthy interests and establishment politicians from government in favor of more working class politicians. It pulls back the curtains on the groundwork and grit needed to run for office. Canvassing neighborhoods, holding local events, and finding volunteers becomes the backbone of the work at hand.

Though AOC is the focus, several other candidates get screen time. Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin all share their stories of how they got involved in the movement. Though the details change from person to person, the underlying mantra remains the same; our representatives do not care about us. Paula Jean has an excellent take on her community being, according to her, sold out to coal mining companies by her representative. “If another country blew up our mountains and poisoned our water, we’d go to war. But industry came in [shrugs shoulders].”

One of the most striking parts of this documentary is highlighting the fight to even get on the ballot in your community. Navigating campaign laws can be tricky at best, deceptive and rigged at worse. The hurdles that an average citizen has to jump through just to get on the ballot are seemingly un-American. You need a certain number of signatures on a petition, but those signatures can be disqualified for any reason. Election judges can hound prospective candidates for legal minutia up until election day, essentially neutering campaigns before they begin. It makes you wonder; in a democracy, where elected officials are supposed to represent the people, why is it so hard for an average person to run for office?

There are too many gripping, and in some cases so-bad-it’s-funny scenes to count. A debate is scheduled between AOC and her opponent Rep. Crowley. Crowley decides to send a surrogate instead of personally appearing. In a Las Vegas town hall event, when candidates are asked about corporate money in politics, Amy Vilela is the only person running for her seat to pledge not to take PAC money in the election. Lastly, the montage of election nights will make even the most hardcore stoic break. The very real emotion and passion on the faces of those who worked hard to see their candidates succeed, or fail, is a powerful ending.

This documentary is must-see, and in many ways in The War Room of our generation. It would be easy to write off the story behind Knock Down the House as an overly scripted fairytale. A young upstart, filled with hope and determination to make their community a better place unseats the long-standing absentee politician. But it is no fairytale. It is, hopefully, the future of American Democracy.


Knock Down the House is now streaming on Netflix.




  1. As a passionate American, i was moved and inspired by that documentary! It takes guts, tenacity, a belief in yourself, others who believe in you and a deep love for our country to say “Yes” to running. I appreciated that they also profiled candidates that did not win so we could walk alongside that experience as well.

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