2020, PG-13, 96 min. Directed by Eli B. Despres, Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., July 31, 2020
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” This quote, perpetually misattributed to French philosopher Voltaire (it was penned by his biographer, Evelyn Beatrice Hall), embodies the spirit of the American Civil Liberties Union, a nonprofit organization that has been integral to some of the most contentious court rulings for the last century. The creative team behind the 2016 doc Weiner casts their lens into the trenches of the ACLU to provide a compelling and compassionate portrait of the men and women who are fiercely engaged in upholding the Constitution.
The film follows four recent hot button cases to the Supreme Court, and drapes the narrative with the anguishing struggles of the people often helplessly caught in the machinations of a presidential administration that seeks to override the courts at every turn, hellbent on continuing its exclusionary and xenophobic agenda. A 17-year-old immigrant in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, pregnant from rape, seeks access to an abortion. There’s a ban on 20-week abortions, and she’s 15 weeks along, so time is of the essence, as the ORR seeks to delay any ruling. A mother who has been separated from her daughter for almost six months due to the “zero tolerance” policy of family separation on asylum seekers becomes part of a class action lawsuit. Following President Trump’s tweet banning transgender people from serving in the military, a decorated Navy soldier’s career is in danger of being erased. And a new question is being proposed for the 2020 Census, asking whether or not a person is a U.S. citizen – a ludicrously transparent scare tactic to skew numbers, alter representation in Congress, and draw future legislative districts. No matter that the particular information is already available from the Department of Social Security. Four issues, all attempting to circumvent the Constitution. A team of lawyers working insane hours, scrambling to put together their cases as the clock ticks down to the wire.
The Fight is an endlessly engaging look into the often labyrinthine legal apparatus, and the film seamlessly moves between the cases with such incredible skill that the team of editors deserve all the accolades afforded to them. And while there are a couple of (rather brief) forays into ACLU defense cases involving the alt-right (Jason Kessler to secure a permit for his “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, N.C. in 2017, which led to the death of Heather Heyer, and would-be provocateur/bottom feeder Milo Yiannopoulos, whose ads for his book were banned in the D.C. subway), there is no mistaking that the film’s ideology lands unabashedly to the left of the dial. One quick glance at the contemporary body politic reveals just how contentious we have become, and how cheaply and quickly the sufferings and tragedies of humanity become just another fleeting news ticker scroll. The Fight is an explicit reminder that these are people’s lives, these are people’s rights, and these are people’s liberties. Please enjoy yours while they are still available.
The Fight is available as a Virtual Cinema release. Choose from: