With six weeks remaining until the next great general election to determine just where the United States is headed, hopefully, for the best, it probably is important to remember, and above all realize, how there will always be mistakes in our democratic process. Voter Suppression is a very real issue in our country; it just had not occurred to me how prevalent, and how dangerous it truly is. That’s perhaps where All In: The Fight for Democracy comes in. At a time when action must be taken to put a lost sailboat back on its moorings, here comes a film that acts as a documentary, but should be seen more as a valuable public service. Not only to entertain but inform, educate, eliminate any guesswork. And above everything else, recognize the ripple effect that comes with acting, and not.
With most dramas relevant to the real world, there must be a major conflict to discuss, even if the real outcome couldn’t count as a solution. Amid the multiple footnotes of American history past and present, there’s the recent voting quandary resulted from the very hotly contested Georgia gubernatorial ticket between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp. Abrams was determined to challenge the world at large to potentially become the nation’s first female black governor, only to lose around an influx of mismanagement on the level of ballots themselves. The further we go back in time; the less unfamiliar such controversy truly is.
It runs as deep as George Washington’s election when only 6% of the population (many white property owners) could be registered to vote and/or run for public office. Anyone else was purely out of luck, and it has been a slow march of progress since. A few ebbs and flows exist, such as the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era, and a highlighted glimpse of Florida’s effort to restore voting rights to convicted felons. As well as a dark light shone on simple gerrymandering the stringency of Voter ID requirements and Ohio’s unnecessary voter purge. All of which very small pebbles to splash down into a larger ocean of unrest and imbalance.
The best thing directors Liz Garbus (Lost Girls) and Lisa Cortés (The Apollo) could do for this participation-spurring docu is ensure equal time on every reason a democratic system could be held back from its full potential. While placing Abrams as a face for the case to challenge each topic head-on and sharing her story, among others. Abrams is the legit deal for a modern-day politician, a valedictorian with high grades and deep family roots, and a victim of systemic racism at the same time, being denied entry to a visit in the governor’s mansion during senior year. If by the end of her story being told you’re not a little furious, even flabbergasted, much like I was, then this film may not reach you the same way.
Elsewhere in the robust group of commentators, we find litigious NYU chair Michael Waldman, top Florida voting activist Desmond Meade who’s not afraid to grill and then some on the idea of disenfranchisement. Hard not to find that a very dirty word in some conversations. The MVP with the most to say is Carol Anderson, whose views on hidden narrative within a racial divide serve her most ardently to peel back the layers of determining voter insecurity. Any more of her comments than what is used here and Amazon might have allowed this film to evolve into a longer miniseries. I’d have loved to see that unless it runs too long and misses the point entirely.
At well over an hour-and-a-half plus change, there is plenty to digest or take in. But also, a lot of enthusiasm over a single idea with many avenues. If I had any issues here, it’s that some may experience a little information overload. With the people involved, All In is equal parts activism and scholarly analysis. Not unlike Desert One, a film that displayed the trial and error of heroism, I’ll have an easy time imagining this film being a valuable teaching tool in all virtual classrooms moving forward. As a tale pushing the trial and error of a similar basic human right, and the need to think differently, that alone is crucial. That ought to start with high schoolers.
As an adult, however, the takeaway couldn’t be more important. With the consequences greater, and with more on the line than in any election before, a passionate plea to know the facts is just what’s necessary to narrowly avoid the same mistakes we’re prone to. All In: The Fight for Democracy couldn’t be more essential for here and now, and hopefully it will reach the right people. It’s the right time already, it always has been. What can be learned here can literally save our way of life, and further prove what we’ve known since at least the ’70s: “Knowledge is power.” If you have the knowledge to make the most informed decision possible, you hold the power. Use it wisely. (A; ⅘ Horns Up!)
All In: The Fight for Democracy is currently streaming on Prime Video; rated PG-13 for some disturbing violent images, thematic material, and strong language- all involving racism; 102 minutes.