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Women of colour documentary, featuring Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, won't air in her hometown Detroit Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff

Women of colour documentary, featuring Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, won't air in her hometown Detroit

The documentary looks at 'The Squad' in Washington [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 July, 2020

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A documentary featuring Palestinian American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib won't air on an official Detroit TV station, part of her state Michigan.
A new two-part documentary about women of colour in US politics featuring Palestinian-American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, won't be aired on one of her home TV stations, Detroit Public TV.

And She Could Be Next premieres Monday and Tuesday nights on PBS, however viewers from the Motor City in Detroit - Tlaib's home city - can only view the documentary online, after the TV station pulled the show over perceived "fairness issues" involving segments about the US Democratic representative.

The documentary looks at the growing body of women of colour in US politics, and the ways they are diversifying the traditionally homogeneous institution.

Directed by Grace Lee and Iranian documentary filmmaker Marjan Safinia, the film follows Tlaib as well as Georgia’s then-Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, US Rep for Georgia Lucy McBath, US Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas, California state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, and Bushra Amiwala, who ran for country commissioner in Illinois.

Detroit Public TV president and CEO Rich Homberg described And She Could Be Next as an "excellent" documentary but told Detroit Free Press that airing it could be difficult given Tlaib's run for re-election.

"The doc is terrific and it's an important topic. It's just technically very difficult for us to straight-up air at this point," he said.

Under a federal equal time rule, opposing candidates must be given equal airtime by broadcasters.

Homberg argues that Tlaib’s narrative is seen throughout the two-part documentary, adding that Tlaib was dedicated approximately 43 minutes of the four hour documentary.

The filmmakers disagree with this conclusion.

"If you watch the entire series, you'll see this is about what's happening in this country with changing demographics and what are those effects when it comes to looking at our democracy," co-director Lee said.

"It's about a movement of women of colour [sic] as candidates and organisers who are transforming politics in the United States. We happen to follow Rashida Tlaib as one person, but the time that is spent in Detroit is not just about Rashida.

"There are regular people who are being civically engaged, who are getting involved in the democratic process, many of them for the first time, which is what was exciting for us, too."

The documentary won’t be carried by Georgia Public Broadcasting, the state where McBath is running for re-election. Safinia also slammed that decision.

"In a state where there is so much voter suppression, which is... documented in the series, this now feels like an act of viewer suppression to stop Georgians from being able to see their own story," Safinia said.

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