The idea of entering politics feels impossible for most of us. After all, who wants to spend their time-fighting in public? The sheer act of running for office opens the prospective politician and their family to scrutiny on every level. For Charles Booker, his choice to run for the US Senate is far more personal. His grassroots campaign is captured in From the Hood to the Holler by Director Pat McGee. The movie pulls your heartstrings as Booker allows a raw and intimate examination of life on the campaign trail.
In Kentucky, Senator Mitch McConnell has built a political machine. Over the last 37 years, McConnell has dominated the state’s political agenda. Not only does he have a political machine in Kentucky, but he rose to a leadership role in the Republican Party. If Booker can pull the upset, he will unseat one of the most powerful politicians in the world.
What makes From the Hood to the Holler so powerful is the earnest belief on display. Booker appears genuine at every moment on screen. He puts his heart into the campaign, feeling every triumph and adversity. Capturing this intimate portrait requires nearly non-stop filming commitment from the documentary team, and their efforts are rewarded.
This also speaks to the access acquired by McGee. If the point of the documentary was simply to boost up Booker, the raw emotion on display would feel disingenuous. However, McGee clearly wants to craft an expose on progressive politicians attempting to break through in non-traditional locations. The power comes from the messengers and the messages, not from the medium.
This allows From the Hood to the Holler to place the frustrated and forgotten voters of Kentucky at the center of the narrative. As Booker seeks to build a coalition, we receive talking head interviews from voters. These people are frustrated, not only with the direction of Kentucky but the country as a whole. To them, Booker offers a unique opportunity to support a non-traditional candidate.
Perhaps the most insightful sequences occur with Booker’s family. More than many other political documentaries, From the Hood to the Holler highlights the sacrifice a candidate’s family must make for a campaign to run smoothly. In this case, Booker’s wife Taneesha must balance the parenting and campaign duties while Booker pursues his dream. We observe the struggles this creates, and just how much effort Mrs. Booker must put out to keep the family afloat. Again, the idea of sacrifice and belief in a greater good resonates from the story.
While the unique footage and storylines help broaden the appeal, From the Hood to the Holler still struggles to feel wholly unique. We have seen political documentaries from many other candidates. While McGee showcases a penchant for elevating the material, he rarely breaks boundaries in form or style. Due to the time, and national spotlight on McConnell’s most recent election, we also know the results of this race before the film even begins. It’s an aspect of the story that McGee can not overcome.
From the Hood to the Holler seeks to introduce the country to a new political figure. Booker certainly charms, but its raw emotion and devotion to ideals showcase the authenticity we expect. McGee keeps the film moving, and captures these intimate moments with grace. If things break right for Booker, this could be an early chapter in a storied political career. From the Hood to the Holler is an entertaining and emotional work, even if it stumbles on occasion.