The 'Running with My Girls' director shares how making this film gave her a newfound appreciation for democracy that she hopes to pass on to audiences.
In Denver, rapid gentrification has driven residents to step up and put their names on the ballot – in "Running with My Girls," we watch with optimism as women of color work together to further their campaigns for city council and the mayor’s seat, even as incumbents rack up staggering campaign dollars to maintain the status quo.
Rebekah Henderson, a former public librarian who hails from New York, moved to Colorado’s capital based on its reputation of affordability, diversity and progressiveness. She soon realized there were cracks in that very foundation, and set out to follow five women who wanted to change things for the better.
“I hope that when you watch the film, you realize that local politics are super important and you absolutely need to pay attention to who's getting elected,” Henderson said. “I'm trying to show people and get them motivated to participate in their local politics.”
Read more about Henderson and how filming "Running with My Girls" affected her perspective of local politics and what encourages her about the future of democracy.
If you haven’t watched the film yet, head to our YouTube to stream it now – some spoilers lay ahead!
WORLD: How did your filmmaking journey lead you to ‘Running with My Girls’?
Rebekah Henderson: Filmmaking was always a hobby for me. When I worked for the library, I made my first film called "What Makes a Mother;" it was a series of interviews with moms and their kids. I partnered with a videographer and we made this project – I actually didn't know I was making a film. It turned into this really beautiful short, and the videographer was like, "Well, you're the producer on this." And I was like, "I'm what? I'm a producer now?" I started to understand that a documentary is interviews with people. You can just sit down and talk.
"Running with My Girls" was so different because I was literally running next to them with a handheld camera, sometimes my phone, just following them. It was really exciting to be recording them when they were running for their seats.
It wasn't until this film that I started to call myself a filmmaker. Maybe nobody knows who I am, and nobody's seen the work, but it's my art now. I feel like I'm finding my voice in the medium, and it's been an incredible journey. Working on this film and seeing it all the way through to this broadcast ["Running with My Girls" premiered on WORLD September 14] has been quite an adventure and a learning experience for me.
W: Why did you choose to include yourself in the film?
RH: I had my own thoughts and feelings about what was happening. I'm a constituent – I live in the city that I'm making this film in. I was telling my story of how I saw these women, how I saw the process, and I wanted the viewer to feel like me. When I see things, I get excited, or mad, or hurt, and I wanted to capture that emotion. Sometimes my emotion is able to get people's mirror neurons going.
W: What did you find most powerful about the filmmaking process?
RH: When Candi [CdeBaca] won that election…there is nothing to compare to what was happening in that room that night. Everyone was so thrilled – we had put all this hard work into getting her elected. I saw the volunteers and people around her lift her up, I saw the community support her. It was incredible to be part of something like that. Knowing what they went through behind the scenes made it that much sweeter and more beautiful for me. They were overcoming insurmountable odds to do this thing for a city that, ultimately, feels like it doesn't care about us.
If you want to run for office and you're a woman, and you think you can't or you don't have money…it is possible. [But] you need support. That was so key – that sisterhood makes all of the difference. I would love to see more women running together the way my girls ran.
W: How did working on this film change the way you understand politics?
RH: Things changed for me as I became more involved and started to understand the power dynamics and the toll it was taking on my friends. It was very funny that I was making this project and wanted people to pay attention, because I never paid attention – I didn't even know when the elections were. When I started paying attention, my mind was absolutely blown by what was happening in the city, how little people pay attention and how few people vote.
I truly did not understand how much developers control the city. We don't have affordable housing. The gentrification here is, to me, still wildly out of control. People are getting pushed out of the city every day, particularly Black and Brown people. Denver is just not affordable anymore.
I didn't realize how much money controlled things. I know that sounds naive, but I didn't understand the power of money in politics. Now I get it, and I understand the role capitalism plays in our politics now in a way I did not understand before. It makes me want to encourage people to invest in the people they're choosing for leadership and to realize that we have all of these incredible leaders and amazing people that are not getting heard.
W: What do you want the audience to take away from "Running with My Girls?"
RH: It’s about wanting people to pay attention to what’s happening. You absolutely need to vote. In local elections, your voice and your vote matters. I hope audiences take away that, at a minimum.
Find that person in your community that you want to support, and support them. Volunteer and knock on a door. People forget that these politicians are real people with real lives and feelings, and we have to take care of them if we want change in our country, cities and towns. The film is about struggle, solidarity and sisterhood, trying whatever you can to build power in a community that has been traditionally underserved, marginalized and not listened to.
I hope people will get to know my city and see their own cities reflected in this work. It doesn't really matter that it's Denver – Denver is America. Having us on the national stage feels powerful and impactful, especially in such a tumultuous and possibly dangerous time in our country. People [need] to know that their voices and their votes do matter, that we can have peaceful transitions of power and that democracy does still work. It works when we participate.
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