Directors: Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia
In November, America faces one of the most crucial votes in recent history as the country decides whether Donald Trump will serve a second term as President of the United States or has the political will finally swung against him? Filmmakers Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia argue that women of colour have an important role to play in reshaping democracy and Part One of their documentary And She Could Be Next, available for 48 hours in the We Could Be One Festival, suggests that US democracy can be changed from the ground up.
Originally slated to premiere at the cancelled Tribeca Festival in New York and airing on American television at the end of June, this powerful documentary will inspire you from the start. Watching this group of incredible women – Stacey Abrams, Rashida Tlaib, Lucy McBath, Maria Elena Durazo, Veronica Escobar, Bushra Amiwala, and Nse Ufot – represent their communities is hugely motivating, while their ongoing experience of racism, suspicion and dismissal is infuriating.
This is one of the most human examinations of the political process that you will see, as seven incredibly relatable politicians engage with neighbourhoods, talk to individuals and develop relationships that will help them make a real difference if they are elected. If any scene represents this fascinating documentary, it is the moment Veronica Escobar, running for Congress In El Paso, helps to organise the #HugsforWalls event which opens the border for 3 minutes so reunited families can hug. It is full of empathy, understanding and compassion for every person involved, a theme which runs through Lee and Safinia’s film.
Part One begins with a 40-minute introduction to each of the candidates amongst which there are potential Governors, Congresswomen, County Commissioners and State Senators, all from minority communities. And far from feeling disparate, cutting between these seven different stories instead welcomes the viewer into a community of people trying to make a difference, focusing not just on the those seeking office but their wider teams of campaign staff, families and supporters. It uses a storytelling approach that gives the separate operations a feeling of groundswell, a movement even, to change the way politics happens.
For anyone outside America, the complexities and language of the political system can be incredibly confusing – Primaries, Midterms, Caucuses – but you don’t need to understand any of that or the specific roles these women are standing for to make sense of the context of this documentary. Visiting neighbourhoods where no political candidate has ever visited, the strategic closure of polling stations and additional ‘organiser’ activities to get unregistered Americans to vote all demonstrate the ways in which these women are trying to open up politics to new voices and influences.
But, for a UK audience used to seeing politicians in suits with perfectly styled hair, showing the ordinariness of these candidates, their real lives as workers and parents, as well as their ability to engage with voters as human beings is one of the strongest aspects of this film as we invest in their story. And somehow that only adds to their appeal. When Rashida Tlaib running for Congress says ‘I knew what it meant not to have a seat at the table’ or when Maria Elena Durazo running for State Senate in LA says “we’re losing rights that were long ago established, we’re losing more rights” you know that these women understand exactly what is at stake.
Part One ends with two of the candidates getting election results and both will move you for different reasons. We may be only half way through the story Lee and Safinia are telling – and sadly there are no plans to show Part Two in the UK – but with increased apathy in our own electoral system, this film will inspire you, knowing that even those who once had the quietest voice can make a difference.
Available here until 2 June 2020