Documentary film “The Fight”, which deservedly won the US Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmkaing when it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival early in this year, gives us the inspiring stories of several lawyers of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Mainly thanks to the cruelty and apathy of the presidency of Donald J. Trump during last several years, these people have certainly been far busier than before, and the documentary closely and intimately observes the ups and downs of their continuing legal resistances against the ongoing injustices under the Trump administration.
At the beginning, the documentary lets us get acquainted with the four main legal battlegrounds for ACLU. Because Trump has openly vowed to overturn the landmark decision of US Supreme Court Justice on the Roe v. Wade case in 1973, protecting women’s productive rights has been one of the most urgent tasks in ACLU, and the documentary focuses on one infuriating case involved with a detained adolescent woman in the need of abortion. ACLU lawyer Brigitte Amiri strongly believes that her client should be allowed to have abortion as she has wanted, but she needs to convince three federal court judges presiding over the case, and that turns out to be not so easy at all as her legal argument is tackled a lot by one of these three judges.
That judge in question is none other than Brett Kavanaugh, who, as many of you know, gained a lot of notoriety as Trump appointed him as the new US Supreme Court Justice in 2018. Watching Kavanaugh eventually going to the US Supreme Court despite of lots of controversy surrounding his alleged sexual harassment, Amiri naturally becomes more alarmed and concerned that before, but she continues to fight as usual while well aware of how the situation will be more difficult for her and her clients out there.
In case of Lee Gelernt, the main field of this ACLU lawyer is those detained illegal immigrants who are unjustly separated from their family members during their detention period. After the regulations on immigrants and refugees coming into US become more severe and harsher thanks to the Trump administration, Gelernt comes to handle more desperate cases than before, and there is a sad scene involved with one of Gelernt’s many different clients. She has been looking for any chance for reuniting with her son for several months, but, unfortunately, there has not been much progress for her, and it is really heartbreaking to see her painfully reminiscing about her separation from her son.
Meanwhile, we also get to know Joshua Block and Chase Strangio, two ACLU lawyers handling the cases involved with the human rights of sexual minority people. After the Trump administration announced a law for banning sexual minority people from the US military a few years ago, the discrimination on sexual minority people has become a bigger issue than before, and one of Block and Strangio’s clients, who is a transsexual US Army soldier, is clearly concerned about what may happen next when he talks a bit about his life and military career in front of the camera.
Block and Strangio eventually succeed in blocking that vile attempt of the Trump administration but, not so surprisingly, they and ACLU come to face more obstacles later as the Trump adminstration tries again in a more insidious way. Although, as some of you know, that attempt was ultimately thwarted at the US Supreme Court a few months ago, I bet that Trump and his deplorable cronies will probably not stop at all during next 5 months even if they come to lose their power after the upcoming US Presidential Election.
Speaking of the US Presidential Election, securing the voting rights for millions of American people out there is definitely crucial in protecting the democracy in US, and that is why what ACLU lawyer Dale Ho has been doing is quite important to say the least. He often goes here and there around many different states for protecting voting rights, and that sometimes prevents him from spending more time with his family members, who fortunately understand and support him and his work despite that.
While he surely becomes quite frustrated many times just like most of his colleagues in ACLU, Ho does not stop at all while maintaining his spirit mostly well, and there is an amusing scene where he and other ACLU lawyers read some of those hate mails coming to them from time to time. Those hate mails are certainly quite unpleasant, but they indirectly remind Ho and ACLU lawyers again of what they have been standing for, and they are all willing to stick to their principle and integrity at all cost. As a matter of fact, ACLU has even defended a number of truly hateful figures and groups in the name of due process, and the documentary lets us muse on whether that is ethically right or not.
On the whole, “The Fight” presents a succinct but ample presentation of what ACLU and its lawyers have been doing for many years, and directors/producers Eli Despres, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, who previously collaborated together in “Weiner” (2016), did a commendable job of juggling many different elements within the short running time (96-minutes). Thanks to the efficient editing by Desperes and his co-editors Greg Finton and Kim Roberts, we never get lost amidst multiple narratives, and the documentary subsequently serves us a series of compelling moments such as when Ho is anxiously waiting for the ruling on his big case from the US Supreme Court. In short, this is one of better documentaries of this year, and I really hope that things will be better for ACLU and its valiant lawyers in next year.