Former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke rode a blue wave across Texas during the 2018 midterm elections. While O’Rourke ultimately lost to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz by the narrowest of margins, it was a progressive movement filmmaker Kevin Ford wanted to capture.
Ford’s documentary, The Pushback, chronicles two newly-elected public officials — Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and Councilwoman Natasha Harper-Madison — and shines a light on immigrant rights and institutional racism across the state.
Ford’s premise of The Pushback was initially rooted in the November 2018 election cycle. However, a twist of events in the state’s political landscape quickly unfolded and drew him to a broader theme: reckoning with Texas’ racist history and profiling two women of color fighting for a more equitable future.
“We hit the road and I was, at the time, hoping to kind of look at things happening around the state that were indicating some type of shift in Texas,” Ford said as he explained the initial process to his documentary. “And as the (2018 midterm) race went on, one thing that surprised me — and it became almost a gravitational pull — the way that the Trump administration kept focusing on the border.”
One of the freshman representatives taking a stance against the Trump Administration’s border policies was El Paso Congresswoman Veronica Escobar.
Escobar, one of Texas’ first two Latina Congress members, quickly ascended into the national spotlight after she took office. She’s been an open critic of the president and has repeatedly called her West Texas border city “ground zero” for the administration’s immigration policies.
Escobar along with Austin City Council member Natasha Harper-Madison serve as the backbone of this documentary.
Ford and his team followed Harper-Madison’s campaign focused on homeless policy reform as gentrification consumes the Capital City.
“In a lot of ways, Austin does get kind of painted with a broad brush of like it's like a liberal haven and the blue dot in the sea of red,” said Ford. “And so here was this woman who was born and raised in Austin and she had a lot to say about the history of racial segregation there.”
Harper-Madison is now the sole Black Austin City Council member. She’s since become a progressive leader on housing policy and recently authored the resolution to reduce the Austin Police Department’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, following protests against police brutality and institutional racism.
The Pushback was initially set to premier in March at South by Southwest but plans were derailed as the COVID-19 pandemic exploded. The festival was canceled and the virus’ disruption to everyday life persists today.
See the trailer here.
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