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Sundance Film Festival Audience Award Winner, "Knock Down The House," To Screen At Pierson High School

Sydney A. Braat

The film follows the story of four working-class women, who were part of the wave of female candidates running groundbreaking campaigns for Congress in 2018. (Courtesy Photo)

The Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center's Present Tense series will offer a special sneak preview screening of Knock Down the House will take place on Saturday, April 27 at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor. Knock Down the House was the winner of the Audience Award for best U.S. Documentary at this year's Sundance Film Festival and is one of the most highly anticipated non-fiction films of 2019.

The film follows the story of four working-class women, who were part of the wave of female candidates running groundbreaking campaigns for Congress in 2018. One of them, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a bartender from the Bronx, would become one of the most outspoken and active members of the new Congress; as well as a media superstar. These women had no previous political experience, limited funds (they refused corporate PAC donations) or establishment support.

"Knock Down the House is a film about hope that challenges the narratives that create cynicism and despair. The film is ultimately about power and how to build it in yourself and in the world, and what it takes to make the politically impossible possible. I want viewers to think about what it would mean for our democracy to have more courageous working people with integrity representing us in government, running on bold agendas that would create a more just and equitable country," said the film's director Rachel Lears.

In the tradition of great "campaign documentaries" such as Primary (directed by Robert Drew, 1960) and The War Room (D.A. Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus, 1993), filmmaker Rachel Lears follows the underdog candidates and their grass roots political adventures. Viewers of the film get to know Ocasio-Cortez well throughout the film. Ocasio-Cortez had to work double shifts to save her family home from foreclosure during the financial crisis. In addition, Paula Jean Swearengin, a coal miner's daughter from West Virginia, witnessed firsthand how pollutants have given her neighbors cancer. Cori Bush is a St. Louis nurse and an ordained pastor whose activism was inspired by the call for police reform. Lastly, Amy Vilela, is a Las Vegas mother who lost her 22-year-old daughter to a brain clot when a hospital turned the girl away because she didn't have health insurance.

"Any way you slice it, and even if you're not entirely in agreement with the various subjects' positions on Medicare for all or the Green New Deal, this film is a winner by a landslide. It helps that all four women featured here, from four very different parts of the country and yet united by remarkably consistent concerns and issues, have great stories to tell and are intensely charismatic," wrote film critic Leslie Felperin.

Knock Down the House was partially financed through a Kickstarter campaign and will be released on Netflix and in selected theaters on May 1st.

Lears is a director, writer, producer and cinematographer based in Beacon, NY. She is a 2013 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow and holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology and a graduate certificate in Culture and Media from New York University. Her documentary The Hand That Feeds (co-directed with Robin Blotnicka in 2014), about undocumented immigrant workers organizing to fight abusive conditions at a NY restaurant chain, won Audience Awards at Full Frame and DOC NYC.

The Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center's Present Tense series is an adventurous mix of new releases, classics, documentaries and rarely screened subversive comedies which speak in a variety of ways and styles to our present political and cultural time. Among the movies screened were First Reformed, which gained legendary writer/director Paul Schrader his first Oscar nomination (for Original Screenplay); Joe Dante's political satire The Second Civil War, Alan Arkin's black comedy Little Murders and Gabriel Over the White House, a wonderfully strange pre code MGM film, directed by Gregory LaCava and partly financed by William Randolph Hearst. Guest speakers have included Paul Schrader, Joe Dante, Jules Feiffer, Sam Pollard and Robert Schenkkan.

Tickets are $15.

Pierson High School Auditorium is located at 200 Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor. For more information and reservations, go to www.sagharborcinema.org.

Sydney Braat is a Hamptons-raised and NYC-living journalist. She enjoys splitting her time between the bustling city life and relaxing atmosphere of the Hamptons. When she's not writing, Sydney is traveling. She thrives off of new experiences, cultures, cuisine, and languages. Sydney writes about the arts, philanthropy, food & wine, and shopping. https://www.sosydneyny.com/ sydneybraat

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