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SURGE: Women Who Rewrite A History of Silence

“For too long, the history of women has been a history of silence,” – SURGE


Produced and directed by Hannah R. Rosenweig and Wendy Sachs, SURGE is Showtime’s latest feature film documenting the record number of first-time female candidates who ran, won and upended politics during the 2018 midterm elections. A barrier breaking film, SURGE explores whether or not the “pink wave” of 2018 was just another moment in history or the beginnings of a true movement. 


SURGE follows three congressional candidates during the 2018 midterm elections in Texas, Illinois and Indiana, each of which were looking to turn their states from red to blue. Most notably, the film follows Lauren Underwood – the youngest Black woman to be elected to Congress. 


A registered nurse and public health expert, Underwood fought to bring hands-on healthcare experience to Washington D.C. She not only defeated six men in the race for Illinois’ 14th Congressional District, but also claimed victory in an 86 percent white voting district. 


At 33 years old, Underwood now works on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and is a leading voice in the fight for racial justice. She personally has introduced 42 pieces of legislation, passed 15 bills out of the House and has had three bipartisan pieces of legislation signed into law. 


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Alongside Underwood, SURGE also shines spotlights on Liz Watson and Jana Lynne Sanchez – two Democratic nominees for the U.S. House of Representatives that lost their races in 2018. 


Watson currently serves as the executive director of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center. She ran as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives in Indiana’s 9th Congressional District – in which she won her primary race by 34 points, yet lost the general election race by 13 points . 


During the filming of SURGE, Watson shared that she was “frustrated with a Washington that’s turned its back on us,” and has since helped to write the nation’s $15 minimum wage bill. 


Sanchez was the Democratic nominee for Texas’ 6th Congressional District for the U.S. House. In 2018, Sanchez lost the general election by a mere 7 points, the closest any Democrat has gotten to winning the seat since 1984. Since the 2018 midterm elections, Sanchez founded Blue Texas Strategy,  a consulting firm dedicated to electing Democrats in Texas, and is actively working to flip Texas to blue in 2020. 


Through the three candidates, SURGE powerfully taps into the collective urgency of this political era, with hopes to show the successes of grassroots activism and that unlikely candidates can win. 


Rosenweig and Sachs shared that the idea for SURGE came shortly after the 2017 Women’s March. 


“Like millions of others, we were horrified by the 2016 presidential election results and took to the streets in sisterly solidarity,” wrote Rosenweig and Sachs in a press release. “Misery shifted into excitement when we saw reports of thousands of women declaring they were running for political office.” 


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Because of this, the film opens showing the tears shed by many women following President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, and later shows thousands of women protesting in the streets of Washington, D.C. during the Women’s March. 


“I didn’t sleep on November 8th, but I sure as hell woke up on November 9th,” said Sanchez. 


Rosenweig and Sachs also stressed the importance of releasing SURGE right before the 2020 election, as there is now an “urgency” for the “critical female vote.” 


“It’s the most important thing,” said Rosenweig. “At a time of troubling news … grassroots activism matters,” added Sachs. 


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Both filmmakers do not stray from SURGE’s overarching theme of powerful women in today’s society. 


Rosenweig is the president of Intention Media Inc.  – the documentary film organization that produced SURGE. Since working as Hillary Clinton’s personal videographer in 2008, Rosenweig has produced and filmed documentaries for the History Channel, the Sundance Channel and PBS – including the Peabody Award-winning Voices Of Civil Rights


Sachs is an Emmy award winning producer as well as a former Capitol Hill press secretary. She has appeared on dozens of TV shows including NBC’s Today Show and ABC’s Good Morning America, and was included in Forbes’ “40 Over 40 Women to Watch” honorees in 2017. 


Based on their backgrounds, the two powerful women are hoping that SURGE can play a role in the beginnings of a new paradigm – one in which women no longer have to be silent. 


SURGE not only tells the stories of women breaking racial and gender stereotypes within their own communities, but also addresses the question of who gets to be a leader in the United States. 


Currently, women make up over 50 percent of our country’s population, yet hold less than 30 percent of government offices. SURGE shows that various news sources say youths are “enraged or engaged,” and voters have caused record turnout rates since the 2018 midterm elections. 


“Fundamentally, people have to want change,” said Sanchez. 


All in all, both filmmakers emphasized the urgency to use SURGE as a tool before the election. 


SURGE isn’t going anywhere,” said Rosenweig and Sachs. 


The world premier of SURGE takes place Sept. 8, at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime. The film will also be available on the Showtime app on Sept. 9.



Gracie is a junior journalism and public policy double major at the University of Maryland, College Park. Currently, Gracie is one of the Campus Correspondents for her chapter alongside Devon Milley.
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