Knock Down the House

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Knock Down the House
Knock Down the House poster.jpg
Official poster
Directed byRachel Lears
Written by
  • Rachel Lears
  • Robin Blotnick
Produced by
  • Rachel Lears
  • Robin Blotnick
  • Sarah Olson
CinematographyRachel Lears
Edited byRobin Blotnick
Music byRyan Blotnick
  • Jubilee Films
  • Atlas Films
  • Artemis Rising Films
Distributed byNetflix
Release dates
  • January 27, 2019 (2019-01-27) (Sundance)
  • May 1, 2019 (2019-05-01) (United States)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited States

Knock Down the House is a 2019 American documentary film directed by Rachel Lears.[1] It revolves around the 2018 congressional primary campaigns of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin, four progressive Democrats endorsed by Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress who ran in that year's midterm elections.[2][3]

The film had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2019.[4][5] It was released on May 1, 2019, by Netflix[6] and received widespread critical acclaim.


The film follows four female Democrats who decided to run for Congress in the 2018 United States elections: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Amy Vilela of Nevada, Cori Bush of Missouri, and Paula Jean Swearengin of West Virginia. The film charts their campaigns in their respective Democratic primaries. The four candidates each run grassroots campaigns against long-time incumbents.[7] Vilela, Bush, and Swearengin lost their primary elections, but Ocasio-Cortez won her primary and went on to win the general election. (However, two years later, during the next Congressional election cycle, Bush went on to win her primary and the general election in Missouri's 1st congressional district, and Swearengin was the Democratic nominee for West Virginia's Senate race, where she lost to the incumbent by over 40 points.)



The day after Donald Trump's election, Rachel Lears began working on her new documentary film.[8] She reached out to organizations such as Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats to find "charismatic female candidates who weren't career politicians, but had become newly galvanized to represent their communities."[8] The search led her to four female candidates: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Amy Vilela of Nevada, Cori Bush of Missouri, and Paula Jean Swearengin of West Virginia.[8] Lears raised $28,111 for the project through Kickstarter.[8]


The film had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2019.[9][10] Shortly after, Netflix acquired distribution rights to the film for $10 million.[11][12] The film was also screened at the True/False Film Festival,[13] the Athena Film Festival,[14] the South by Southwest,[15] the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival,[16] and the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.[17] It was released on May 1, 2019.[18][19] It was uploaded to YouTube by Netflix on April 17, 2020.[20]


Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating from critics of 99% based on 103 reviews, with an average rating of 7.70/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A galvanizing glimpse behind the scenes of a pivotal election, Knock Down the House should prove engrossing for viewers of all political persuasions."[21] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[22]

Kate Erbland of IndieWire gave the film a grade of B, saying, "Stylistically, the film isn't at all fussy: on-screen graphics are straightforward and informative, and Lears leaves the editorializing out of her introductory captions, though the film's score often proves manipulative during the most unnecessary of times."[23] Amy Nicholson of Variety wrote, "That Lears and co-writer Robin Blotnick made a real movie with intelligent camerawork and storytelling on a budget so small that they each pulled double duty as DP and editor, respectively, is a tribute to the energy of every woman who pledged that in 2018 they would make a difference."[24] Leslie Felperin of The Hollywood Reporter called it "a pretty extraordinary cinematic artifact."[25] Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, saying, "While this is not Frederick Wiseman-esque pure 'direct cinema' there are enough sequences that lean into that fly-on-the-wall type of film-making."[26] Nick Allen of gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and described it as "a worthwhile reminder for American citizens of the importance of making one's voice heard."[27] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, who gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, wrote, "The fighting spirit of this female quartet blazes through every frame of this galvanizing film."[28] Richard Roeper of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, calling it "stirring and inspirational".[29]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Sundance Film Festival February 2, 2019 U.S. Documentary Audience Award Knock Down the House Won [30][31]
Festival Favorite Award Knock Down the House Won
Critics' Choice Documentary Awards November 10, 2019 Best Documentary Knock Down the House Nominated [32]
Best Political Documentary Knock Down the House Nominated
Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin Won
Cinema Eye Honors January 6, 2020 Audience Choice Prize Knock Down the House Nominated [33][34]
The Unforgettables Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won
Black Reel Awards February 6, 2020 Outstanding Documentary Knock Down the House Nominated [35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (November 28, 2018). "Sundance Unveils Politics-Heavy Lineup Featuring Ocasio-Cortez Doc, Feinstein Drama". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  2. ^ Croucher, Shane (November 29, 2018). "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Stars in Sundance Festival Film About 'Most Shocking Political Upset in Recent American History'". Newsweek. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  3. ^ Adams, Sam (January 29, 2019). ""I Need to Take Up Space"". Slate. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  4. ^ Ryan, Patrick (January 28, 2019). "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez surprises at Sundance premiere of her emotional new documentary". USA Today. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  5. ^ Palmer, Ewan (January 28, 2019). "Knock Down the House: Watch Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Receive Standing Ovation From Sundance Audience After Documentary Screening". Newsweek. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  6. ^ Wilkinson, Alissa (April 22, 2019). "Watch: Netflix's Knock Down the House trailer is here to make politics feel a little more hopeful". Vox. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  7. ^ Schwab, Nikki (January 8, 2019). "Ocasio-Cortez attending Sundance to see documentary about herself". New York Post. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d Desta, Yohana (June 29, 2018). "The Establishment Didn't Think Ocasio-Cortez Could Win—But This Documentary Filmmaker Did". Vanity Fair. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  9. ^ Debruge, Peter (November 28, 2018). "Sundance Film Festival Unveils 2019 Features Lineup". Variety. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  10. ^ "Knock Down the House". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
  11. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (January 30, 2019). "Netflix Landing Hot-Button Political Documentary 'Knock Down The House' – Sundance". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  12. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (February 6, 2019). "Sundance Festival Favorite 'Knock Down The House' Sold For Record $10 Million; Why This Golden Age For Docus?". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  13. ^ O'Falt, Chris (February 6, 2019). "True/False Film Fest Announces 2019 Lineup". IndieWire. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  14. ^ Kenigsberg, Ben (February 28, 2019). "6 Film Series to Catch in N.Y.C. This Weekend". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  15. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (February 6, 2019). "SXSW Film Festival Sets 'Pet Sematary' As Closing Night Film, Unveils Slate Of Midnighters, Shorts, And More". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
  16. ^ O'Falt, Chris (March 11, 2019). "Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Announces Lineup — Exclusive". IndieWire. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  17. ^ Vlessing, Etan (March 5, 2019). "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Doc 'Knock Down the House' Set for 2019 Hot Docs Festival". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  18. ^ ""Knock Down the House" - In Select Theaters and Launching Globally on Netflix on May 1". The Futon Critic. March 27, 2019. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
  19. ^ Viswanath, Jake (April 22, 2019). "Netflix's 'Knock Down The House' Documentary Trailer Will Make You Cry About Politics, In A Good Way — VIDEO". Bustle. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  20. ^ Spangler, Todd (April 17, 2020). "Netflix Releases 10 Documentary Films and Series for Free on YouTube". Variety. Retrieved August 13, 2020.
  21. ^ "Knock Down the House (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved January 18, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ "Knock Down the House". Metacritic. CBS. Retrieved June 7, 2019.
  23. ^ Erbland, Kate (January 30, 2019). "'Knock Down the House' Review: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Appears in Emotional, Energetic Doc". IndieWire. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  24. ^ Nicholson, Amy (January 29, 2019). "Sundance Film Review: 'Knock Down the House'". Variety. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  25. ^ Felperin, Leslie (January 27, 2019). "'Knock Down the House': Film Review | Sundance 2019". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  26. ^ Hoffman, Jordan (January 28, 2019). "Knock Down the House review – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doc brings down the house". The Guardian. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  27. ^ Allen, Nick (May 1, 2019). "Knock Down the House". Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  28. ^ Travers, Peter (April 30, 2019). "AOC Emerges as an Inspiring Example in 'Knock Down the House'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  29. ^ Roeper, Richard (April 30, 2019). "Stirring documentary 'Knock Down the House' captures the rise of AOC". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  30. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 2, 2019). "'Clemency' & Documentary 'One Child Nation' Take Top Sundance Film Festival Awards". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  31. ^ Hipes, Patrick (February 5, 2019). "AOC-Fronted 'Knock Down The House' Wins Sundance's Festival Favorite Award". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  32. ^ Nordyke, Kimberly; Howard, Annie (November 10, 2019). "Critics' Choice Documentary Awards: 'Apollo 11' Tops Winners List". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
  33. ^ Lewis, Hilary (January 7, 2020). "Cinema Eye Honors: 'American Factory,' 'Apollo 11' Top Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
  34. ^ Howard, Annie (November 7, 2019). "Cinema Eye Honors: 'American Factory,' 'Apollo 11' Lead Nominees". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
  35. ^ Morales, Wilson (December 11, 2019). "20th Annual Black Reel Awards – Nominees Announced". Blackfilm. Retrieved March 20, 2020.

External links[edit]