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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Fight is a documentary about how the attorneys of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have challenged the Trump administration by filing lawsuits in a variety of areas, including immigration rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, and LGBTQ+ rights. Although the film is straightforward, some of the content surrounding the featured cases and legal considerations might be too mature for younger elementary school children. The attorneys discuss their clients' difficulties: A young female detainee is prevented from having an abortion, parents are separated from their children at the border, and a trans man wonders whether he'll have to leave the armed forces. Expect to see emotional/upsetting footage of fighting and a car charging into a crowd, crying detainees, and children in detention (with families eventually reunited). Most strong language is bleeped, but in a few cases it's audible; words include "s--t," "f--k," "damn," and inflammatory, racist language in scenes of a White nationalist rally and in letters to the ACLU attorneys. The documentary offers a positive portrayal of the ACLU and includes many conversations and legal strategies that are critical of the U.S. government, Donald Trump, and conservative policies.
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What's the story?
Directed by Eli B. Despres, Josh Kriegman, and Elyse Steinberg, THE FIGHT chronicles four of the hundreds of lawsuits that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed against the Trump administration's policies. The documentary is a mix of news footage from Trump's press conferences, interviews with ACLU attorneys and staff, and scenes of the team of lawyers working on four different cases in four fields: immigration, reproductive rights, voting rights, and LGBTQ+ rights. Attorney Lee Gelernt challenges family separation on the border, Dale Ho takes on the proposal to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census, Brigitte Amiri leads the Jane Doe case challenging the administration's ban on abortion for unaccompanied immigrant minors, and Chase Strangio and Josh Block defend the rights of transgender people to remain in the military.
Is it any good?
This is a compelling, convincing documentary about the importance of the ACLU's role in American society, fighting to defend everyone's Constitutional rights. Although The Fight focuses on just four of the hundreds of lawsuits the organization has filed since Trump's inauguration, the film also reminds viewers of other notable cases the ACLU has taken on, from Brown v. Board of Education (school segregation) and Loving v. Virginia (interracial marriage) to Roe v. Wade (abortion) and Smith v. Collin (which involved neo-Nazis who wanted to march through a predominantly Jewish suburb of Chicago). Overall, the film offers a positive depiction of the ACLU's attorneys and their progressive causes, but it does also include the fact that the ACLU defended the Unite to Right rally, even though there was internal resistance to taking on the group as a client. After the murder of counter-protester Heather Heyer, the ACLU deals with being indirectly implicated in her death, and the ACLU's executive and legal directors explain why they purposely take cases across the ideological spectrum.
The Fight works best when it's concentrating on the attorneys' individual journeys, what motivates them, how they connect to their clients, and why they consider their work vitally important. Gelernt's commitment to reuniting undocumented immigrants with their children, Amiri's dedication to reproductive rights for all women, and Ho's passion for voting rights are riveting and inspiring. And, as a trans man battling the trans military ban, Strangio feels particularly responsible for the case he and Block are working on. Viewers who support the Trump administration's policies may not be interested in a documentary that portrays the ACLU as heroes, but the film doesn't shy away from showing the many insults and threats that the ACLU's staff receive every day -- some of them alarmingly personal. Families who enjoy history, politics, and policy issues will have plenty to discuss after watching The Fight.
Talk to your kids about ...
What did you learn about the ACLU from watching the film? Is it surprising that they've defended both White nationalists and undocumented immigrants?
What purpose does the ACLU serve? What are some of their more famous cases, and why do they have such an impact? Why do you think the attorneys face public scrutiny and even threats?
Discuss some of the specific cases featured in the documentary. What's changed since those cases were tried in court? What do you think about the issues that the ACLU defends?
- On DVD or streaming: July 31, 2020
- Directors: Eli B. Despres, Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Activism
- Character strengths: Communication, Compassion, Empathy, Teamwork
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: strong language, thematic material and brief violence
- Last updated: August 9, 2020
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