If you want to be both inspired and spitting mad in equal measure, the documentary And She Could Be Next will definitely do it for you. Co-directed and produced by Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia, And She Could Be Next chronicles the burgeoning movement of candidates and organizers who are women of color, giving the spotlight to powerhouse candidates like Stacey Abrams, Veronica Escobar, Lucy McBath, and Rashida Tlaib, as well as organizers like New Georgia Project’s Use Ufot. The expression ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop’ never fit a group of people more aptly than this one, and it’s a joy to see. What will anger and mobilize more than a few viewers into action, is seeing the roadblocks these women encounter in raising their own and other women’s voices, and assuring every person who is eligible to vote has the chance to do so.
The documentary is cut into two episodes, Building a Movement and Claiming Power, with each around an hour and a half. The first goes behind the scenes during the midterm elections, placing us in the middle of war rooms and rallies, watching these hardworking women knock on doors, respond respectfully to any number of insults and threats leveled at them at functions and through social media, and deal with the financial disparity between themselves and well-funded white, male career politicians. The second is more focused on the enormous challenge of voter suppression that disproportionately affects Black, Brown, and immigrant communities, and how that sets up women of color for failure, even as they inspire dramatically higher voter turnout.
Lee and Safinia follow women from the beginning of their campaigns through their successes and failures, bringing the personal and political experiences of these women into sharp focus. And She Could Be Next is filmed over a two year period, and includes coverage of Abrams’s bid for Governor of Georgia. The access the filmmakers have to the more intimate, personal moments for these women, makes their struggles all the more affecting for viewers. At one point, now-Georgia congresswoman Lucy McBath shares her reasons for running for Congress. A strong advocate for gun control and safety, she lost her 17-year-old son to gun violence in 2012. We see Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib having a frank, patient talk with her son about bigotry and xenophobia. Lee and Safinia also bring the cameras along to a meeting in which Tlaib hears from members of her community in Detroit. They pay the highest car insurance rates in the country, and are stuck paying tens of thousands a year for insurance, or they can’t have a car. Through multiple interviews with Stacey Abrams, we hear her perspective on her campaign. At one point, she references the unfair expectations placed on her as a candidate of color from the middle class. “When they tried to shame me because of my debt, I pushed back hard, because money does matter, but it doesn’t matter in the way we’ve been taught to believe. We’ve been taught to believe that if you’re wealthy and in debt that’s a sign of your brilliance, but if you’re middle class or poor and in debt, it’s a sign of your inability to manage your resources. I’ve never met people better with money than those who don’t have any, because you’ve got to accomplish a lot more with a lot less.”
By election day 2020, Millennials and Gen-Z will be more than a third of the voting populous. People of color will also account for a third. Women of color already represent almost a third of citizen voting-age women. That’s a lot of overlap. It’s clear that this is the right time for this film. It is the right time for women of color, who make up 20% of the US population but only 4% of all elected officials, to make their voices and the voices of all people of color heard. They are already leaders in the community and in the home, and deserve better representation in government. And She Could Be Next is a great primer in how they are making a future with better representation happen, one determined, inspired candidate at a time.
4 out of 5 stars.