“Heading into the homestretch of this year’s election, Represent feels like a balm. A reminder that, win or lose, there’s something to be gained by reigniting people’s interest in civil engagement, especially at the local and state level. You don’t have to agree with everyone’s politics in the documentary, but it’s nonetheless fascinating to hear each story and feel reinvigorated and moved by their determination. “Represent” presents a clear-eyed view of American politics on an individual level."
"These women are connected in their desires to change their communities and restore faith in democracy. But the challenges abound, and as the film moves along, it becomes increasingly clear that running for office as a woman isn’t just about engaging inactive voters. In fact, Jones, Bird and Cho all face varying degrees of microaggressions and Bachelder does a good job of showing that these moments reflect larger, more systemic issues... what Represent does make clear is that without firm reinforcements, the system will continue celebrating clichés, like Year of the Woman, instead of permanently changing."
-The New York Times
In April of 2017, I sat in a sunlit room in Wisconsin, exchanging pleasantries with twenty or so local farmers. They were all women, and today they’d all raised their hands to say they were interested in running for office.
In the five months since Hillary Clinton had lost the presidential election, I’d been showing up to a lot of rooms like these and meeting women just like this. Unpolished but determined. Passionate about fire stations and ditches and the schools in their community and tired of waiting for someone else to fix things.
I knew this was a story I wanted to tell. I was looking for a window into the current political landscape, and I was interested in exploring the experiences of women in office beyond a tired “year of the woman” or “pink wave” trope. Local politics felt like the perfect place to dig in– an opportunity to both celebrate the important work being done at this level while interrogating the systemic failings and intrinsic biases apparent even in these “smallest” of elections. So I borrowed a friend’s camera, packed up my car, and spent the next few years chasing Myya, Bryn, and Julie through parades and fundraisers and chili cook-offs across the Midwest.
With a film titled “Represent,” it felt like my responsibility to ask big questions about the true power of representation. Yes, the demographics of elected officials are important, and gender identity, race, and sexual orientation on their own can be powerful symbols. But even more significant is a candidate stepping into a space that wasn’t built for them and still unapologetically bringing their whole selves into the spotlight with them. It was this revelation that grew into the backbone of the film. While Myya and Julie and Bryn check all sorts of disparate demographic boxes, they share a universal struggle to redefine repressive expectations for women in politics, and to exist in the public eye on their own terms.
I knew it was important, then, for me to present each woman as more than a campaign commercial. I needed to let them be full people with flaws, complicated relationships, and moments of vulnerability and opportunities for improvement. Represent deepens these portraits by developing stakes that extend beyond the campaign trail, and the arc of the film ultimately continues past election night to paint a richly personal picture of joy, of loss, of mother-daughter relationships, owning your narrative, and of growth.
I wanted to ask more from our audience as well. Represent pushes all of us to sit with people we may disagree with while still recognizing their worth, and to consider the subconscious creep of our own biases and preconceptions. Time and time again during production I found myself outside the lines of my original thesis, caught off guard by three complicated women and communities that defied conventional punditry. But it was these moments of discomfort, the grey areas and digressions, that I kept coming back to weeks later in the edit.
So that’s what I hope to offer now with Represent: a tender and often unexpected telling of three passionate candidates, the challenges they face, and a glimpse at what we all have to gain when women shape the future of our communities and ultimately, our country.
— Hillary Bachelder, Director/Editor/Cinematographer