Ocasio-Cortez makes surprise video appearance at Sundance

Ocasio-Cortez makes surprise video appearance at Sundance

PARK CITY, Utah — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the rock star of the Sundance Film Festival — and she didn’t even show up in person.

The New York congresswoman, who represents Queens and the Bronx, features prominently in the new documentary “Knock Down the House,” which had its world premiere at the Festival Sunday night.

During a talk-back after the screening, director Rachel Lears surprised the audience by announcing Ocasio-Cortez would appear live via video conference.

The room roared at the news, which came after one of the most enthusiastic showings of the first week of the festival. Every screening of the film was sold out for weeks before Sundance began, and viewers gave loud ovations whenever Ocasio-Cortez would speak.

She had been due to attend the premiere and the after-party at the Macro Lounge in downtown Park City, but she cancelled the trip at the last minute when President Trump announced the 35-day government shutdown would come to an end.

The documentary follows the campaigns of four insurgent women congressional candidates — Paula Jean Swearingen of West Virginia, Cori Bush of Missouri and Amy Vilela of Nevada — but as the sole victor of the group, Ocasio-Cortez gets the spotlight.

In the first scene, the then-candidate discusses the possibility of losing the election. “Part of me is trying to brace myself,” she says. “People keep telling me, ‘You’ll never be able to show your face in your community again.’”

She makes many similar comments throughout. Confident on the stump, in private she reveals a prevailing nervousness and paranoia. When canvassing in the boroughs she would come to represent, Ocasio-Cortez gets butterflies in her stomach. “What do you say when they say, ‘Who is it?,’” she asks. “What do you say?!”

At voters homes, she encounters a mix of excitement, indifference and angst. One woman asks Ocasio-Cortez, “Who are you running against?” “Joseph Crowley,” the candidate replies. “No!” says the shocked voter. Another couple sitting on their porch tell Ocasio-Cortez that, although they are Democrats, they voted for Trump in 2016 because of his stance on illegal immigration. The candidate doesn’t respond in the film.

Throughout the doc, Ocasio-Cortez stays persistent and motivated, even though she understands the difficulty of her uphill climb against longtime Rep. Joe Crowley. She frequently expresses a bitter loathing of Crowley, who held her seat from 1999 to 2018. Early in the campaign, she candidly implies that he might put out a hit on her. “I’m told that I need to look over my shoulder,” she says. “Because when a person collects $18 million over the course of their career, who knows what they’re capable of?”

She also mocks his pricey voter handouts as a “Victoria’s Secret catalog.” She reads aloud a line from the pamphlet — “Democrat Joe Crowley is leading the fight against Donald Trump” — and then Ocasio-Cortez looks directly into the camera in a mocking dead-face. The Sundance audience howled.

It also turns out Ocasio-Cortez’s unearthed college dance video isn’t the only time her creativity has been captured on film. In the doc, we see her as a kid, playing “Silent Night” on her home piano and making alien-attack movies in her bedroom.

Ocasio-Cortez turned the final moments her video post-screening talkback to Trump.

“I hope everyone walks away knowing that we’re still in a mode where we’re all hands on deck for our democracy,” she said to applause. “This is not just about the President of the United States. He could be gone tomorrow and that will not change the systemic injustices that led to his election.”

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