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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.
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, and Latinx people 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 truth 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 get away with executing or lynching people of color who vote, 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 trying to stop college students from swinging votes in a progressive direction or redrawing districts in shady ways to make it so that 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 1,300 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 policymakers 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?
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 does it still occur today? How can voters safeguard against it?
- In theaters: September 9, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: September 18, 2020
- Cast: Stacey Abrams, Luci Baines Johnson, Andrew Young
- Directors: Liz Garbus, Lisa Cortes
- Studio: Amazon Studios
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Activism, History
- Character strengths: Empathy, Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some disturbing violent images, thematic material and strong language - all involving racism
- Last updated: October 5, 2020
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