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35 years of 'Pelosi in the House': Alexandra Pelosi on her mother's historic career in Congress

Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, left, and Nancy Pelosi, right, attend "Tony Bennett Celebrates 90: The Best Is Yet to Come" in New York on Sept. 15, 2016. (Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, left, and Nancy Pelosi, right, attend "Tony Bennett Celebrates 90: The Best Is Yet to Come" in New York on Sept. 15, 2016. (Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s term as speaker ends next week.

Pelosi made history when she became the first woman speaker of the House. She also made history as she led the House during two impeachments against former President Donald Trump. The HBO documentary “Pelosi in the House,” released this month, tracks her life and 35 years in elected office.

A veteran documentary filmmaker with unique access created the film — her daughter Alexandra Pelosi, who has made 14 documentaries for HBO. This film takes viewers inside Nancy Pelosi’s work and family life.

Alexandra Pelosi says she first thought of making the film when her mom told her she “had never been inside the office of speaker of the house until she became speaker herself.” She wanted to use her access to release a documentary to share what happens behind those closed doors.

“Sort of a ‘Wizard of Oz,’ pull the curtain back and show how the sausage is made,” Alexandra Pelosi says.

The filmmaker decided to release the documentary when her mom stepped down from congressional leadership. She says she filmed hundreds of hours at home and inside the speaker’s office over the last several years.

Watch on YouTube.

“I never put a microphone on her,” Alexandra Pelosi says. “I never asked for permission” to film. Most of it was filmed using her iphone.

The documentary shows Nancy Pelosi executing the nuts and bolts of politics, like working the phones to build the votes to pass the historic Affordable Care Act. And then the camera turns to show her grandchildren sitting and coloring at a nearby table in her office.

“That’s the Ginger Rogers, the ‘backwards in high heels’ part of what she does,” Alexandra Pelosi says. “She has five children and nine grandchildren. And we never gave her a pass just because she had a day job.”

The film even shows Nancy Pelosi working at home in her pajamas.

After decades of her mom being demonized and vilified in campaign ads, Alexandra Pelosi says her family has paid a severe price. Her 82-year-old husband, Paul Pelosi, was brutally attacked in the middle of the night at the family’s San Francisco home. Two months later, he is in recovery. But the head trauma is a long term issue.

“He looks like Frankenstein. And he is getting better every day, physically,” but, Alexandra Pelosi says, this is something her father will be dealing with for the rest of his life. “When I was in the ICU with him, I was very angry.”

The attack left her questioning the value of her mother’s life of public service verses the cost the family has had to bear. But she believes her mother would say it was worth it.

At this point, the threats are ongoing.

“My children get death threats. I have the FBI on my doorstep,” Alexandra Pelosi says. “Now that she is stepping down as speaker, I am hoping in the new year, we will have some peace.”

On Jan. 6, the filmmaker found herself at the center of historic events unfolding around her. She realized it was important for her to film everything.

“I was concerned there was no record of what was happening,” she says. “The clerk of the House did not come with us. When security pulled Nancy Pelosi from the podium, she didn’t even have her cell phone with her. So she was borrowing cell phones,” to get in touch with secretaries of the defense, the attorney general, and governors trying to get the National Guard out to end the insurrection.

“So that’s why I was filming. I felt like we needed a historical record,” she says.


Shirley Jahad produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Gabe Bullard. Jahad also adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.