“From the Hood to the Holler” is about “west Side” Louisville state representative Charles Booker’s long shot campaign to unseat Kentucky’s all-powerful Mitch McConnell, “the man who broke the Senate,” back in 2020.
Booker ran as an under-funded outsider, against the D.C./Democratic National Committee’s choice to battle McConnell, Marine pilot Amy McGrath, who raised tens of millions to fight against McConnell’s stranglehold on politics in the Basket Case of Appalachia. Booker lost.
But his campaign, upbeat and positive and truly statewide, an effort to find common ground between struggling rural white Kentuckians and struggling urban Black Kentuckians, makes for a textbook case of “grass roots” activism vs. party power plays. It was launched during a pandemic and parked on one of the Ground Zero flashpoints of Black Lives Matter, the police murder and cover-up of Louisville’s Breonna Taylor. And he almost won the primary, although who knows how he’d have fared in the general election.
Pat McGee’s film captures some “war room” moments of strategizing, but is more about him speaking to crowds in counties all over the state, to radio hosts, following him from his quixotic attempts to sway his conservative colleagues with the power of his rhetoric in the state legislature to his on-the-streets mediating between protestors and Louisville cops during the most fraught protests over the no-knock-warrant murder of Taylor, somebody Booker knew through a family member.
We hear from legislative backers of his candidacy, who puzzle over why a national establishment was tone deaf to figure someone who looked good on paper was a better candidate than someone who synthesized Kentucky’s general dislike of McConnell into a single sentence.
“Mitch McConnell is the barrier to our progress.”
Filmmaker Pat McGee has great access to the candidate and the assorted events, rounds up plenty of campaign coverage from the “fool’s errand” dismissive national media, but includes little input from those who might never vote for a Black man in a state where race and education and outside exploitation have been a way of life since the late 19th century.
It Booker goes on to unseat the hilariously hated, Russia loving Rand Paul for a Senate seat this fall, “From the Hood to the Holler” will make a fascinating footnote for a sea change in American politics and a reminders of when Kentucky gave up its status as a backward, self-loathing American basket case and finally woke up.
Cast: Charles Booker, Mitch McConnell, Tanesha Booker, Jason Perkey, Erin Bridges and Taylor Coots.
Credits: Scripted and directed by Pat McGee. A Pat McGee Pictures release.
Running time: 1:42