‘Represent’ Review: Running for Office, and Seeking More Than Votes

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In “Represent,” a documentary about women in local politics, getting the vote is only part of the battle.

The film, directed by Hillary Bachelder, follows three women — Myya Jones, a mayoral candidate in Detroit; Bryn Bird, a township trustee candidate in Ohio; and Julie Cho, a state representative candidate in Illinois — as they campaign to win their local elections. Jones is a 22-year-old Black woman determined to make Black constituents feel empowered in local politics. Bird, a mother of two and a Democrat, launches a campaign to disrupt a conservative, male-dominated network of trustees in her rural Ohio town. And Cho, a Korean-American Republican, struggles to find support in her liberal district while going up against a popular Democratic incumbent.

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. The film deduces that these women need meaningful support, but doesn’t fully explore what that might look like — whether it would come in the form of campaign teams, money, endorsements or all of the above. But 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.

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. Watch through virtual cinemas.

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