Knock Down the House: Analytic Review
Knock Down the House is a documentary directed by Rachel Lears, who also does part of the writing (Lowry). The film follows chronologically the activities of Democratic activists who successfully challenged incumbents. Ocasio-Cortex gets the biggest share of screen time, with her experience depicted as a movement that allows the filmmakers to spend time with other challengers such as Paula Jean Swearengin, Cori Bush, and Amy Vilela and telling their stories. The lesson of this documentary does not, however, become evident until towards the end where Ocasio-Cortez consoles herself by saying that in order for one to make it through, then a hundred must join the battle.
The tragedy begins with the backgrounds of each of the individuals that the documentary is based on. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx in a not so privileged family, and when the financial crisis hit them, and their house was on the verge of foreclosure, she has to work double shifts at a restaurant to prevent this from happening. Amy Vilela was left devastated after losing a loved one due to the awful health care system. She was dealing with anger that she did not know where to direct. Cori Bush joined his community in protests against police shootings that left an unarmed black man dead. On her part, Paula Jean Swearengin watched helplessly as her family and friends died from pollution from the coal industry (Jordan). These stories are resonating, very compelling, and are worth knowing as they create a significant basis for the entire documentary. The director, however, captures these stories just in the right amount and does not go so much in-depth that the women appear weepy.
These four women refuse to sit back and remain helpless and decide to take action at a period of historical volatility in the politics of the United States. Without the resources afforded to well-established incumbents or corporate financing, there create a movement of rebellious candidates criticizing powerful incumbents in Congress. What follows is one of the most significant upset in the nation’s history.
The documentary does a great job highlighting the huge and extraordinary odds that Ocasio-Cortez overcomes to clinch the political seat. It also puts into context the dismissive nature of Joe Crowley, who is a well-established political veteran. The documentary follows the modest campaign of Ocasio-Cortez, where she goes door to door and attends meetings only attended by a handful of people. It captures a moment when Crowley sends a stand-in for the debate a sign of how much he considered the 20-something year old up and coming politician insignificant.
The documentary sheds light on the idealism and vigor that Ocasio-Cortez and other characters invested in their campaign and shows the people the hurdles small politicians face during campaigns and the influence of money in politics. The glimpse of the grassroots campaign offices is very eye-opening. With these hurdles, any individual, whether Republican or Democratic, would not help but admire the ambition of these legendary women. They have no experience, no finances, or experience and lay everything on the line with a vision to change the country for the better.
The film does not have coordinated storytelling but has a strong message for pro-minority or pro-female in politics activists. It inspires, anger, and conceivably even motivates its audience to do something about the current political situation. It is a message for all women who have chosen to willingly take on the male-dominated political scene and withstand the harassment that comes with the challenge. The documentary shows the campaign staffers warning candidates of the consequences of coming turning up with facts and truths. It is an indication of how the political era today has bid farewell to polite discourse.
The application of ethos in this film is natural. Ethos is the major character of a culture and is used to appeal to an audience through underlying sentiments that advise the beliefs, practices, customs, and practices of a certain society. The characters in this film operate using ethos at each point. Ocasio-Cortez is an upbeat young woman who goes around driving home points of inequality to people regardless of their age. She uses facts and truths to eviscerate her competition and does exceptionally well in doing so. The depiction of Ocasio-Cortez, Paula Jean Swearengin, Cori Bush, and Amy Vilela as ethical or the use of ethos creates credibility with the audience. Although the message is not intricately persuasive, the audience is challenged to take action and join in the movement.
The creators of the documentaries use pathos a lot in the film. It begins with the background stories to each of these strong women that evoke pity, although not to the extent that depicts them as victims rather than heroes. Pathos is a value that arouses sadness or pity. The documentary creates an emotional response from the audience, especially with the death of Amy Vilela’s daughter due to the negligence of the health system. The journey of these women during campaigns is also pitiful. Their campaign funds come from well-wishers through crowdfunding and have stories of relatable hardships. There are a lot of women out there whose children have been denied treatment for lacking insurance or having the wrong one like in the case of Amy.
Although the film is not based on any conspiracies, it appeals to the audience a sense of logic. Logos is a persuasive element that challenges the audience to reason, use logic, and be rational. Logos is applied through the campaigns and the message carried by the candidates. Ocasio-Cortez, Jean Swearengin, Cori Bush, and Amy Vilela campaign using points about the extent of social inequality and get people to start seeing what was already in front of them.
This documentary is an indication of the slow but significant success of minorities in response to change. There is still a long way to go, but this documentary evokes a reaction from a larger audience and beyond the people that have had contact with the woman depicted. No matter what happens in the future, Knock Down the House will remain a significant record of a pivotal movement in the politics of this nation.
Brian Lowry. “‘Knock Down the House’ Puts AOC’s Stunning Victory in Larger Context.” CNN, 30 Apr. 2019, edition.cnn.com/2019/04/30/entertainment/knock-down-the-house-review/index.html.
Hoffman, Jordan. “Knock Down the House Review – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Doc Brings Down the House.” The Guardian, 30 Jan. 2019, www.theguardian.com/film/2019/jan/28/knock-down-the-house-review-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-doc-brings-down-the-house.