All In: The Fight for Democracy

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
All In: The Fight for Democracy Movie Poster Image
Powerful docu about the need to protect voters' rights.
  • PG-13
  • 2020
  • 102 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Encourages people to stand up for their constitutional right to vote. Makes it clear that U.S. laws were unjust to voters of color, who were kept from voting in huge numbers for more than a century. Stresses the importance of combating current laws that make it easier for people's voting rights to be restricted. Themes include activism, empathy, integrity, and perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Stacey Abrams is depicted as intelligent, generous, and determined. The film's representation is primarily centered on Abrams and other Black activists and politicians, but we also meet activists of various backgrounds who support the fight against voter suppression and want to help all citizens vote, as is their constitutionally protected right. As portrayed in the documentary, proponents of voter ID laws are all White.

Violence

Archival footage shows the violence that Black people faced in the Jim Crow South, from photos of lynchings to an animated recreation of the story of a man who was assassinated for being the only Black man in his Georgia county to cast a vote in 1946. Well-known photographic and video images of peaceful Black marchers being attacked with clubs, fists, and hoses.

Sex
Language

One use of "f--king," plus overtly racist language like "negroes," "colored." There are entire speeches/slogans about the need to keep negroes from voting -- i.e. "keep the negroes where they belong" and "if a negro votes it will be the last thing he ever does."

Consumerism

Brief glimpse of one Lexus and one Ford.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that All In: The Fight for Democracy is a documentary about the history of voter suppression in the United States and its continuing impact today. Specifically, the film looks at efforts to keep people of color, young voters, and those living in poverty from exercising their constitutional right to vote. Even though the era of Jim Crow is officially over, the filmmakers explore how voter roll purges, voter ID laws, closing of voting locations, and other modern obstacles work nearly as effectively as the poll taxes and violent intimidation of the past. Archival footage shows violence (lynching, beating) against Black civil rights activists and other citizens, and the interviews include a couple of curse words and derogatory slurs (one "f--king," plus use of "negroes" and "coloreds"). It's made clear how the right to vote, which should be a non-political issue, has become hyper-politicized and partisan in today's divisive political climate. Although the issue would ideally be bipartisan, the movie's central heroic figure is Stacey Abrams, Georgia's former Democratic gubernatorial candidate, with conservative pundits and politicians featured as proponents of suppression. Themes include activism, empathy, integrity, and perseverance.

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What's the story?

ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY is a documentary from award-winning filmmakers Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés about the history of voter suppression in the United States -- and how it might have played a role in Stacey Abrams' narrow loss in her 2018 bid to become the governor of Georgia. The documentary chronicles how "the people" in "We the People" originally just meant White male property owners and how, over the centuries, federal and state laws have helped to disenfranchise certain voters, from women and those living in poverty to, most insidiously, Black, Indigenous, Latinos, and other people of color. Through archival footage and interviews with historians, politicians, attorneys, and political scientists, the documentary explores how voter suppression continues to this day -- not with overt violence, lynching, and poll taxes, but through voter ID laws, voter roll purges, gerrymandering, and more. 

Is it any good?

This film is a powerful reminder of (or introduction to) the shameful history of U.S. voter suppression, particularly in the South, where Black citizens were kept from voting for a century. And while the truty about State-supported suppression of the Reconstruction Amendments is upsetting, so is the fact that today there are still devious ways to keep certain populations from voting. White men can no longer execute or lynch people of color who vote without retribution, but gerrymandering, voter ID laws (which limit what kinds of identification are considered acceptable and which aren't), and closing voting booths in impoverished and/or majority Black or brown neighborhoods make voting increasingly difficult. As Abrams and various historians point out, certain types of voters scare the majority, so people in power will always find a way to try to block their votes, whether its conservative states trying to stop college students from swinging votes in a progressive direction or redrawing districts in shady ways to make it so there are none with predominantly Black or brown populations. 

What's fascinating is that Garbus and Cortés have found actual footage of pundits and campaign managers admitting that their candidates won because voter ID laws and purges kept certain people from voting. The film also examines the lie of widespread voter fraud, showing how even President Trump's own task force on the supposed pervasiveness of it could find no more than 1300 examples out of 138 million (a statistical non-issue, considering that he claimed more than 3 million votes were cast illegally). All In focuses on Abrams, but it also interviews academics, historians, and policy makers who know why and how the currently conservative-leaning Supreme Court has made it easier for States to suppress voter turnout.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence depicted in All In: The Fight for Democracy. Is it necessary to the story? Why or why not? How does real violence compare to stylized or fictional violence?

  • Do you consider Stacey Abrams a role model? How does she demonstrate empathy, integrity, and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths

  • What historical truths did you learn about voting in the United States? Why do U.S. citizens need to understand the legacy of voter suppression? How can voters safeguard against it?

  • What do you consider the legacy of voter suppression to be? How does it still occur today?

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