“THE FIGHT”— Defending Civil Rights


Defending Civil Rights

Amos Lassen

“The Fight” follows four civil rights cases brought against the Trump administration by the American Civil Liberties Union. The directorial team of Eli B. Despres, Josh Kriegman, and Elyse Steinberg show us in vital detail what is really at stake in Donald Trump’s assault on civil rights. The Trump administration has become the biggest and most wide-ranging threat to civil rights in America’s recent history, and it is the job of the ACLU to uphold these rights in the courts and through the judicial system. The film looks at contentious, difficult subject matter and manages to make a tremendous  amount of dry technical detail interestingly clear and focused.

We look at family separation at America’s borders (immigration rights), abortion access (reproductive rights), at the ban on transgender military personnel (LGBTQ+ rights), and at the attempt to amend the US census with a question about citizenship (voting rights). The film presents a to synthesis and clear assessment of the political and historical contexts of each case.

We see that the batter for civil rights is a matter of life and death through the film’s exploration of  Trump’s attempts to establish a Muslim ban. is very powerful and shows us that the civil rights battle remains a matter of life and death. Members of the ACLU talk about the consequences of their failures and we see how deal with the effects of controversies that are painful. During the film’s examination of ACLU support for the Unite the Right march at Charlottesville in 2017, we really see its importance. The complexity of the issues at stake is looked at with sensitivity, intelligence, and tact and it shows us the filmmakers’ commitment to give a nuanced and honest account of the ACLU.

There is so much more to be done as we see here making this a documentary of immediacy and essential viewing. “The Fight” often succeeds at making the travails of civil rights lawyers in the Trump era visually and emotionally engaging. We follow five lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union as they travel between New York, Washington D.C., and the Southwest, leading efforts to counter numerous assaults on the rights of immigrants, women, and transgender people. These lawyers make the film a humanizing look at the ACLU.

After playing audio from Trump’s inauguration over the production company logos, the film’s prologue shows ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt obtaining a stay on Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban.” After this (later overturned) legal win, Gelernt becomes the lead on the ACLU’s lawsuits over child separation at the U.S.-Mexico border, while colleagues Brigitte Amiri, Dale Ho, and the team of Lee Block and Chase Strangio work on abortion rights for detained migrants, the notorious “citizenship question” proposed for the 2020 census, and trans rights in the military.

We are with the lawyers as they file briefs, struggle to balance family and work life, deal with surprising rulings, and struggle with Microsoft Word.

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