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In the heart of the American Midwest, three women take on entrenched political systems in their fight to reshape local politics on their own terms.

"Represent" is equal parts personal and political, journeying through life on and off the campaign trail with female candidates from vastly different communities and both Democratic and Republican parties.

Watch the "Represent" trailer below:

View a private screener of the theatrical cut of the film at: https://vimeo.com/363201852, pw: repres3nt

View a private screener of the broadcast cut of the film at: https://vimeo.com/434554529, pw: br0adcast

OUR PARTNERS

Represent is a co-production of ITVS, Kartemquin, and Backbone Films with additional support by Fork Films, Chicago Media Project, and The Democracy Fund. Represent is being released in the U.S. by Music Box Films and internationally by Syndicado Film Sales.

AWARDS AND DISTINCTIONS

  • A 2020 Independent Lens Film
  • Opened in 50+ virtual cinemas around the country
  • World Premiere: Cleveland International Film Festival
  • Festival Selections: Woods Hole Film Fest, Maine International Film Festival, One Take Film Festival, Underhill Film Festival, Women + Film Festival, Vermont International Film Festival
  • Winner: American Documentary Film Fund Pitch
  • Participant: Sheffield MeetMarket, IFP New York, Hedgebrook Edit Lab

CRITICAL ACCLAIM

“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."

-Roger Ebert.com

BACKGROUND

In 2018, the country was captivated by a “pink wave” of women running for office. After the midterms, we were awash with overdue firsts — Muslim and Native Congresswomen, among many others, finally taking their seats in the halls of power. While this is an important milestone to acknowledge, the overall representation needle barely moved, from women making up 19.4% of Congress in 2018 to 23.7% in 2020. Even buoyed by a nationwide movement, the U.S. currently ranks a bleak 82nd in the world for gender parity in politics, a status that has actually worsened over the past 25 years.

So what is standing in between women and the offices they seek? Studies show:

Women self-select at a far lower rate than their male counterparts, and must be asked 7 times on average before deciding to run.

Female candidates struggle to find the financial backing and party-level support that their male counterparts access.

According to a recent UN report, in the U.S., 39% of people still think that men make better leaders.

Represent's stories tackle many of these issues head on…

Myya Jones, Mayoral Candidate

MYYA JONES is a 22-year-old black woman running for Mayor of Detroit. She’s a lifelong native of the city, activist, and a recent Michigan State graduate who stepped into the race in January 2017 to challenge the Democratic incumbent and first white mayor of Detroit in nearly 50 years, Mike Duggan. Already the underdog, Myya receives notice that the board of elections is challenging her residency requirement, and she will be forced to continue as a write-in candidate.

But Myya won't give up that easily, and despite a defeat at the polls, in 2018 she's on the campaign trail again– this time for State Rep. She’s in it to show other Millennials and women of color that this is their fight, too.

Bryn Bird, Township Trustee Candidate, with her daughter Paige

In May of 2017, BRYN BIRD quit her job to help run the family produce farm while her mother was receiving cancer treatment. Not fully content with farming and family responsibilities, Bryn has her sights set on the upcoming township trustee election– even though, as a proud Democrat, she is far outnumbered in her rural Ohio community. Once she launches her campaign, despite being a four-person race for two open seats, the town's conservative "old boys network" acts quickly behind the scenes to pit Bryn against incumbent Melanie Schott, the only other female trustee that Granville has ever elected. Now Bryn must navigate a political system erected to exclude women like her, in a fight for the future and the values of this sleepy Midwest town.

Julie Cho, State Representative Candidate

In Illinois, JULIE CHO, a Korean immigrant and conservative Republican running for State Rep, faces long odds against a popular Democratic incumbent. Not long after launching, her own Illinois Republican party even tries to convince Julie to drop out of her race. Julie rejects the GOP’s strong-arming and pushes forward to build a grassroots campaign, but as the national rhetoric intensifies and the midterm elections near, Julie's shared identities– woman of color, conservative, immigrant– may prove to be her ticket to success or her political undoing.

"...The film gives a raw look at the strength, vulnerability, and resilience that comes with running for an elected position."

-The Daily Kos

WHAT SETS US APART FROM OTHER CONTEMPORARY POLITICAL FILMS?

"Represent" takes a bipartisan approach, exploring systemic bias on both sides of the aisle and challenging audiences to identify with complicated, passionate women across the political spectrum.
Our film subverts stereotypes and explores the nuances within the issue of representation. Whether it’s a progressive rural farmer, a conservative woman of color, or a politically engaged millennial, our main subjects exist in a space outside the “typical” demographic boxes. Through their stories we dig into the grey areas around this issue: the cultural tightrope women walk to fit into male-dominated spaces, the pitfalls of an election with multiple female candidates, and the additional scrutiny Myya and Julie face as women of color.
Although our filming spanned the historical 2018 “pink wave,” this is a timeless story that transcends both the current cultural moment and politics itself. By following our candidates in the year after election night, we also push past the typical political narrative and explore the complicated realities that come to light after attaining that seat at the table. Each of our stories speaks to more than just the challenges for female candidates; these are universal experiences for professional women navigating any number of male-dominated fields.

"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

ARTIST STATEMENT

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

"A winning new documentary... Each of the film’s three narratives reminds us the patriarchy never yields its political power willingly.”

-The Chicago Tribune

IMPACT & OUTREACH

Women’s Political Organizations*– "Represent" is tapping into the movement activated by women across the country. We have been cultivating relationships with non-profit, bi-partisan groups like Run for Something, New American Leaders Project, and Reflect Us with the goal of amplifying their mission to advance gender parity. "Represent" can be integrated as a tool into their events, trainings, and educational materials. Our goal with these partnerships is to intentionally facilitate the recruitment of diverse potential candidates into established mentorship and educational opportunities.

Targeted Screenings*– "Represent" will host screenings with Democratic and Republican party recruiters to facilitate conversations about structures proven to have positive impacts on female candidates– ranked-choice voting, term limits, and the creation of multimember legislative districts.

Educational Curriculum– The team is working with institutions like the Center for American Women in Politics and Represent Women to craft video modules and educational curriculum around the finished film. We intend to engage both high school and college classrooms.

*Note: As our industry responds to the COVID-19 crisis, we are working with our existing partners to move screenings online and organize events virtually as necessary.

"I dare you to watch this doc and not feel hopeful."

-Women and Hollywood

THE TEAM

HILLARY BACHELDER (director/ shooter/ editor) is a documentary filmmaker and manager of Backbone Films in Chicago. She is the former Director of Production at Kartemquin Films and earned both editing and production credits on over a dozen of the company’s critically acclaimed films and series, including the Emmy-award-winning Trials of Muhammad Ali, POV’s Raising Bertie, and Oscar nominated Minding the Gap. In 2015, she was selected to participate in the prestigious Sundance Documentary Edit and Storytelling lab as an up-and-coming editor of promise. Her recent work has included a 4-part video series with the New York Times that won an Edward R. Murrow award in 2018. Hillary’s first film, Embodies, is a 40-minute piece that explores three women’s complicated relationships with the human body. The film premiered at the Big Sky Film Festival in 2014.
ANNE SOBEL (producer) has produced film and journalism work in Chicago, D.C., London, Paris, Kuwait, and Doha. She also associate produced the feature length documentary, The Workers Cup, which had its World Premiere at Sundance in 2017, where it was selected as the Opening Night film Anne’s fiction work includes a two volume graphic novel series, Asra & the Orphan Moon, which will be published by Bloomsbury Qatar in Arabic, English, and French. She is also the Executive Producer on Salon Shoo Shoo, which was optioned by Image Nation.
RACHEL PIKELNY (producer) is an award-winning filmmaker, recently named to DOC NYC and Topic Studios’ “40 Under 40” List. For five years, she served as an on-staff producer with Siskel/Jacobs Productions, where she produced and directed the award-winning documentary short Grace, which premiered on Salon.com and was subsequently distributed by Condé Nast Entertainment/SELF. Also with SJP, she produced the forthcoming feature documentaries No Small Matter and The Road Up. Previously, with Kartemquin Films, she produced the Emmy- and IDA Award-winning The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2014, Independent Lens/PBS) and A Good Man (2011, American Masters/PBS). From 2004-2009, she produced episodes of the nonfiction series Cold Case Files for A&E and American Greed for CNBC. A 2017-18 Impact Partners Fellow, she now co-chairs the Documentary Producers Alliance.

The "Represent" Executive Producers are Jolene Pinder, Betsy Steinberg, Gordon Quinn, Sally Jo Fifer, and Lois Vossen; our Supervising Producer is Amy Shatsky; and Contributing Producers are Rosie Garthwaite and Noland Walker.

PRODUCTION PARTNERS

Sparking democracy through documentary since 1966, Kartemquin Films is a collaborative center empowering filmmakers who create documentaries that foster a more engaged and just society. The organization's films have received four Academy Award ® nominations and won several major prizes, including six Emmys, four Peabody Awards, multiple Independent Spirit, IDA, PGA and DGA awards, and duPont-Columbia and Robert F. Kennedy journalism awards. Kartemquin is recognized as a leading advocate for independent public media, and has helped hundreds of artists via its filmmaker development programs that help further grow the field, such as KTQ Labs, Diverse Voices in Docs, and the acclaimed KTQ Internship. Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization based in Chicago. www.kartemquin.com

The Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds, presents, and promotes award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television and cable, innovative new media projects on the Web, and the Emmy Award-winning weekly series "Independent Lens."

STAY IN TOUCH:

  • represent@kartemquin.com
  • facebook.com/thefilmrepresent
  • @represent_film