Councilwoman takes us on the journey of a hotel housekeeper as she stakes her place in a political system that typically renders her invisible. I have been friends with Carmen since I was an organizer for her union 18 years ago. We worked closely together on issues of workplace justice. When she first ran for office in 2011, I knew she would have to continue to clean hotel rooms, while serving as a public official, because City Council pays very little in Providence; so I started to document her journey.
During the course of filming, it became clear that Carmen’s biggest challenge is corporate interests. Money permeates our democracy, affecting policy goals even at the local level. With every passing day, the questions this film raises feel more poignant. What does it mean for our democracy that workers do not normally have a voice at the table? How would public policy be different, if our policymakers reflected our communities?
The film tells Carmen's story from her point of view. It is narrated with her voice, and the style is predominantly cinéma vérité, with framed interviews of her as she tells her story. It is a purposefully simple presentation, to communicate a story grounded in reality. As a white, middle-class filmmaker, I believe it is important to name the privilege that has allowed me the tools to tell Carmen's story, and with that for me comes great responsibility to listen deeply to voices on the margins, and play my part to counteract structures of inequality.
I strive to make a film that will inspire meaningful discussions on the current state of our democracy, and enhance conversations on how the intersections of race, class, and gender affect public policy. I hope our viewers see Carmen’s story as a way to imagine a political leadership that serves all of us, and is truly reflective of our people.