Alexandra Pelosi receives a call from her mother every day.
As of 11 a.m. the week before a documentary about her mother, Nancy Pelosi, was released, she had already spoken twice to the first female Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Nancy Pelosi had called “at dawn” to wish Alexandra’s teenage son a happy birthday. And when Alexandra’s Christmas tree toppled a few hours later, while she was preparing her New York apartment for a party, she called her mother to let off steam.
But for all their closeness, despite what Alexandra describes as their “beautiful and glorious mother-daughter relationship,” the filmmaker didn’t let her mother know about one small detail: that she was, uh, in the process of to make this movie about her. “Pelosi in the House” premieres Tuesday on HBO.
The House Speaker wasn’t the only one who wasn’t told about the film. Pelosi accompanied her mother to the White House state dinner two weeks ago and met with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.). In footage of Alexandra that was shown publicly earlier this fall by the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol, Schumer is seen working on phones (in Schumer’s case, an old-school flip phone) alongside Nancy Pelosi as they try to tame the chaos from a safe place. “I was like, ‘Oh, sorry about the whole January 6 thing.’ And he goes, “Yeah, I didn’t know you were filming,” Alexandra told The Washington Post in an interview.
“I was sitting in the corner, you know, and he had way bigger issues than what I was doing,” she said. “And he’s a guy with a flip phone, so he doesn’t understand.”
In addition to the images from January 6, Alexandra Pelosi also shows her mother in bed, in a bathrobe, without makeup with a bandage stretched over her nose. It shows her crunching numbers to tally members’ likely votes on the Affordable Care Act bill. It shows her dancing in socks, with a grandchild on her hip. At one point, Nancy Pelosi stands in her office, applying mascara in front of a gold mirror. She sanitizes her hands and turns to a staff member with a request. “There is one thing I want to ask you to do,” she said. “Somewhere here I have a birthday card for my granddaughter, Madeline, 21.” Then she walks through the halls of the Capitol, goes to a lectern and opens the debate on the impeachment of the President of the United States.
Alexandra Pelosi, 52, does not claim her film is an unbiased documentary. How is it possible? This is her mother, whom she loves and admires. “She has five very demanding kids and she has nine grandkids and she can’t just call him. She can’t outsource that,” Alexandra said. “No matter what anyone says about her, the one thing they can never take away is the fact that she has five kids who really adore her.”
Alexandra Pelosi’s documentary portrays the speaker as a disciplined political tactician but also as a mother and grandmother who cares for her family even as she leads a chamber of Congress. The film, described by the San Francisco Chronicle as a “one-of-a-kind document about one of the most important women in American history”, argues that Nancy’s political career was not so much the result of a decision than a destiny. “I didn’t really choose this life,” Nancy Pelosi tells her daughter in the film. “He chose me.”
The same could be said of the filmmaker and her subject. Alexandra Pelosi told The Post she never wanted to make a movie about her mum – fearing anything she posted would be ‘gunned against my mum’. But, she says, “filming is a reflex” for her, and by virtue of the access privileges that come with being a family, she’s amassed thousands of hours of footage of a notoriously private historical figure. . In 2018, when Donald Trump was president and the Democrats were poised to regain control of the House of Representatives, grooming Nancy Pelosi for another term as a speaker, young Pelosi decided it was time to start working seriously on a film.
Alexandra Pelosi made her debut as a documentary filmmaker with “Journeys with George,” which is based on footage she shot using a handheld video camera while covering George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign for NBC. She didn’t have the green light from either NBC or the campaign to make a movie. It was Karl Rove (of course) who set his strategy. “He walks up to me and says, ‘I get it. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask permission. And then that was it. I was like, ‘That’s my motto.’
Sure enough, Alexandra said, she never got permission to film at the Capitol. His mother never signed a waiver. She says she never explicitly told her mother she was shooting for a movie. “Why would I say to her, ‘Mom, I’m making a movie.’ Then she would never let me film again.(Nancy Pelosi’s office declined to comment for this article.) Alexandra was just very present, often with her sons in tow, and often with her iPhone ready to record. she thinks some of her mother’s assistants may have “a voodoo doll with my face on it”, she managed to get some of them to talk on camera. (Of course, they didn’t come out of the message: “She’s a homing missile on votes,” a Nancy Pelosi staffer said of her boss.)
She insists she is “not in the Nancy Pelosi propaganda game”. alexandra, the youngest of Pelosi’s five children, predicts that his family will be difficult audience. A screening was scheduled for Monday evening at the National Archives. The Pelosi siblings were scheduled to attend, but the filmmaker scheduled it specifically to conflict with his mother’s congressional obligations. “My sisters will probably say, ‘Why did you put that on?’ My mom will probably say, “Why did you put that on? “, she told the Post. She expects Nancy to be particularly sensitive to scenes involving other Democratic members of Congress.
And the filmmaker wants to be clear: “I am not speaking for the Pelosi family. No one would want me to speak on behalf of the Pelosi family. (Asked for a response to that statement, older sister Christine Pelosi was diplomatic: From her ex-boyfriends “to her hairstyles to her movies, Alexandra has always been herself,” she wrote. )
One thing the movie doesn’t show is that Nancy Pelosi explains at length her background or her process or the meaning of her historic life. Alexandra said she tried, at one point, to get her mother to tell her life story. It didn’t go well.
“I’m sure all of your co-workers have been trying to get Nancy Pelosi to sit down for an interview and either get emotional or overshared. That’s not who she is,” Alexandra Pelosi told The Washington Post in a Zoom interview from her apartment, after putting the Christmas tree back up. “The only way to make an honest film about Nancy Pelosi was to make a film of truth, because she is her work. So you watch her work. She does not exhibit.
The film traces the speaker’s origin story in Baltimore and the tutelage of a father who served as both congressman and mayor. “I learned from my father that it was important to know how to count,” says Nancy Pelosi. Later, she adds, “Some people count sheep at night. I count the votes. Those vote-raising skills are on display in footage of her daughter from 2009, when she led an effort to pass the Affordable Care Act. When a Democratic congressman from Indiana hesitates to vote for the bill, Pelosi pulls the most Catholic of all power moves: she calls the priest who is president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame and makes him agree to lean on the member. “Thank you, Father,” she said when the call ended. “I would like to come to get your blessing.”
The documentary feels more personal than ever. Nancy Pelosi likes to tell the story of being asked to run for Congress when 16-year-old Alexandra was her only child still at home. Before agreeing to run, Nancy asked for Alexandra’s blessing. “I said, Mom, make a living,” Pelosi recalled. “What teenager doesn’t want her mom out of the house three nights a week?
Over the course of her political career, Nancy Pelosi, now 82, has become an extraordinarily hated figure on the right. Earlier this year, a man entered the family’s San Francisco home looking for her and attacked Nancy’s husband, Paul Pelosi, with a hammer, fracturing his skull. As the family sat by their hospital bed in the intensive care unit, Alexandra wished, at least then, that she could withdraw her blessing from Nancy’s decision to enter public life years ago. earlier.
“My father looks like Frankenstein, and I’m so angry, ”recalls Alexandra. “I tell my mom, “If I knew then what I know now, I would never have given you my permission,” the filmmaker told the Post.
It was Paul, she said, who protested. “You can’t undermine his accomplishments,” she recalled, telling her hurt father. “It’s not fair to her. You have to say, “If you came to see me in this social media environment, I would never give you my blessing.”
Alexandra said she hasn’t slept much since her father’s attack and threats against her family have only increased. She suspects that these threats will intensify with the release of this film. But that hasn’t made her want to pull the plug on a film that she hopes will reveal something about the sausage-making nature of the legislative process and her mother’s ability to navigate that process “at upside down, in high heels.
Alexandra Pelosi does not think her film will attract many people into political life. But it could reveal what it takes to survive it. “At the end of the day,” she said, “you have to be a true believer for this job.”