We Are One: A Global Film Festival
And She Could Be Next is a two-part documentary series that tells the story of a defiant movement of women of colour transforming American politics from the ground up during the historic 2018 midterm elections. The series follows organisers and candidates as they fight on behalf of black, brown, immigrant and poor communities that have been long neglected by politicians.
The first part of And She Could Be Next featured in the We Are One Film Festival so this review only covers that episode. The entire docuseries will premiere on 29-30 June 2020 on POV as part of PBS’ Female Trailblazers programming pillar, celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage.
And She Could Be Next follows notable women of colour like Stacey Abrams, Rashida Tlaib, Lucy McBath, Maria Elena Durazo, Veronica Escobar, Bushra Amiwala, and Nse Ufot during the 2018 midterm elections. Some are running for office while others are campaign managers and grassroot organisers. While the focus is mostly on the women who are running for office, it’s fascinating and inspiring see the people that surround them on the campaign trail, many of whom are women, and the everyday people they manage to encourage to get involved with politics and to get out to vote.
Bushra Amiwala is the youngest candidate the documentary follows. She was just nineteen years old when she announced she was running for election to the Cook County Board of Commissioners to represent District 13 in Illinois. A standout moment during her campaign is when a white man who says he’s typically Republican and voted for Donald Trump, was so impressed with Amiwala’s integrity that he was going to vote for her.
It’s not just the women on the campaign trail, the documentary shows how campaigning and politics take up so much of theirs and their families lives. Rasida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, is running for Congress for Michigan’s 13th congressional district, and her two young sons steal the limelight every time they’re on screen.
And She Could Be Next clearly shows the hurdles women have to overcome to get into politics. For instance, things like a candidate’s debt can be plastered across the news which happened to Stacey Abrams, the first African American woman to be a major-party gubernatorial nominee in the United States. Black women discuss how they need to be allowed to be their complete, flawed selves and things like debt shouldn’t stop them from being taken seriously as a strong leader or politician.
Voter suppression is a major topic that’s discussed. As a Brit, I never really knew or understood what voter suppression was, but And She Could Be Next does a great job of explaining how it can be detrimental not only to the individual who wants to have the right to vote, but to the political makeup of America. The way campaigners can get people of colour registered to vote and interested in politics, when historically politics hasn’t been interested in them, is just a story of resilience. So many obstacles are put in their way, including the closure of polling booths in Black neighbourhoods, and often Republican’s do something like start an investigation because there couldn’t possibly be thousands of people who are willing to register to vote if they just have some help and guidance.
There are so many interesting moments and conversations about politics and people in And She Could Be Next. A group of white women canvassing for Lucy McBath (a gun control advocate since her son Jordan Davis was murdered in 2012) talk about what they call political hostages. They describe how so often when they knock on a door, the wife answers and says “We all vote Republican here” when they know that’s not the case due to her score showing she’d polled a Democratic ballot numerous times. For whatever reason, there are women who do not feel comfortable or able to discuss politics with their husbands or families. It’s an illuminating discussion and one that shows there are different layers of oppression when it comes to politics and women.
Not to generalise but one of the many things that And She Could Be Next makes clear is that white people, including white women, have become complacent. Intersectional feminism is a thing because no woman’s experience is universal. White women don’t experience the prejudices and microaggressions women of colour face. In broad terms, it’s white women who put Donald Trump in the White House because whether overtly or subconsciously, white women look out for themselves, not the wider community. White women need to do better, to listen and learn and stand up for those from underrepresented groups because politics should reflect the people they’re representing and America (and the world) is more diverse than ever and policy makers should reflect that.
And She Could Be Next shows how women of colour are not only getting elected into office, but they are organising at a community level to an extent that hasn’t been seen in recent years. They are getting elected, or at least getting more votes than people thought possible, by raising each other’s voices in a field where for too long the dominant voice has been white and male. The grass roots activism is inspiring, as so many people give their time for free and bring different resources to a campaign because they believe in something so strongly.
By the end of the first part of And She Could Be Next you’ve seen Rashida Tlaib and Bushra Amiwala run their campaigns up to election night. For the other candidates, you need to watch the second part to see how their campaigns turns out.
And She Could Be Next is an engaging and inspiring documentary series. It shows the power of community outreach and how women of colour have been the backbone of communities all over America and have been involved in protest and politics throughout history. It shows how tough it is for those who are the “first” but in being the first, they can breakdown barriers and help lift up marginalised voices. The women featured in And She Could Be Next are honest about their struggles, hopes, dreams and life experiences, and it is difficult to not be caught up in the excitement for a future that could be so much better than what we have now.
Directors: Grace Lee, Marjan Safinia