This story starts, where most political films end: Councilwoman Carmen Castillo has just won an election to the Providence, RI City Council. Her victory is despite talk in the neighborhood that she is merely an uneducated maid. But, as a Councilwoman, she faces her toughest challenge yet: balancing her full-time job as a hotel housekeeper, her family, and her personal life, with corporate interests organizing against her supporters.
The film tells the story of the Councilwomans first term in public office from her point of view. It is narrated with her voice, in a style that is predominantly cinéma vérité, with framed interviews of Carmen as she tells her story. It is a purposefully simple presentation, to communicate a story grounded in reality. The film is bilingual, Spanish/English, to reflect Carmens everyday.
Carmen holds on to her vision that all employment should be able to sustain a family so that a working single mother can support her children with one job. But in politics, vision isnt everything. She is up against the power of corporate interests.
We are with Carmen every step of the way. One moment Carmen is vacuuming a hotel room, then races home to put on a suit before heading to City Hall to handle City business. City Council in Providence, RI pays a mere $18,000, so her only option is to continue to work at the hotel. Her efforts to bring more good jobs culminate in a heart breaking campaign for a $15/hour minimum wage. Her stress is real, as she balances different needs within the neighborhood, and a challenging personal relationship. Her continued political savviness despite the odds, and ability to break into dance and song in the most difficult moments, are an inspiration.
At the end of three years, election season begins again. Two other candidates collect signatures and pitch their vision for the neighborhood, contending they are better qualified for the job.
The films Director, Margo Guernsey, and the protagonist, Councilwoman Carmen Castillo, have known each other for 18 years. Margo started documenting Carmens political leadership after she first ran for office in 2011. At the time they had no idea that a few years later, questions about whether our politicians reflect everyday Americans would become front and center in our national discourse.
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