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“You Cannot Tell a Political Story in This Moment…Without Foregrounding Race and Gender”: A New Wave of Politics Documentaries Is Revolutionizing the Genre

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“You Cannot Tell a Political Story in This Moment…Without Foregrounding Race and Gender”: A New Wave of Politics Documentaries Is Revolutionizing the Genre

Courtesy of Amazon Studios. In 2018, Democrat Liz Watson took a shot at flipping her red Indiana district blue. And filmmakers Wendy Sachs and Hannah Rosenzweig followed her every move. In their newly released Showtime documentary, Surge, viewers see Watson sign donor thank-you letters “Love, Liz,” and listen to her optimistic elementary-school-age daughter, Lila, say, “Man we could really win this.” Watson won her primary (and Bernie Sanders ’s endorsement) but ultimately lost her election. But her defeat doesn’t make the film any less engrossing.

Surge is part of a compendium of new political documentaries landing on streaming services and scoring virtual and drive-in theatrical releases in light of the pandemic. In a sign of the cataclysmic nature of the 2016 presidential-election results, all of these vérité-style films feature women candidates. Many feature women of color, and those mentioned here come from women directors. The Sundance documentary Knock Down the House from director Rachel Lears helped introduce progressive powerhouse Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It also introduced us to now 2020 Democratic nominee Cori Bush, who just defeated a 50-year political dynasty in her Missouri primary. Other examples include Councilwoman, the story of a housekeeper in Providence, Rhode Island, who ran for […]

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