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The Fight (A Movie Review)

THE FIGHT (2020)

Featuring Lee Gelernt, Brigitte Amiri, Dale Ho, Joshua Block and Chase Strangio.

Directed by Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman and Eli Despres.

Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. 96 minutes. Not Rated.

In the 1995 political comedy The American President, the fictional President Andrew Shepherd (as played by Michael Douglas) was attacked by his reelection opponent (Richard Dreyfuss), of being a “card-carrying member of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).”

This was based on a real piece of political subterfuge – George H.W. Bush said the same thing about his opponent Mike Dukakis in their Presidential election several years before the movie came out. Unfortunately, Dukakis did not have Aaron Sorkin writing his dialogue. The fictional President Shepherd did, though, and came up with this thought-provoking response.

“I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren't you? This is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party's most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution?”

This makes perfect sense. Nonetheless, The ACLU has been a political punching bag for decades now. Which is odd because the ACLU is not partisan – they take on cases on both sides of the political divide. The lawyers who work for the ACLU wish only to uphold the law and protect human rights, whether they agree with, or respect, or even like their client. For better or worse, they will fight for the rights of their client.

This is especially vital in the current moment in history because the Trump administration has been a dumpster fire of human rights violations.

The Fight is a smart, thought-provoking, and empathetic documentary – produced by actress Kerry Washington, among others – about the lives and careers of several lawyers at the ACLU in the politically and legally charged first few years of the Donald Trump experiment.

The lawyers take on a whole series of politically charged legal cases – the immigration ban, the ban of transgenders in the military, the forced separation of parents and children of undocumented immigrants, the Kavanaugh judgeship, the attempt to force immigrants to not have abortions, and the Charlottesville demonstrations.

The ACLU actually fought for the white supremacist protestors’ legal right to assemble in Charlottesville, which led to much soul searching after the violence and death that came in the wake, as shown in the film. However, even though they were horrified by how it turned out, they realized that it was necessary that they fought for the civil rights of everyone, not just people who were politically expedient to champion.

Lee Galernt is probably the most recognizable of these legal champions. He regularly appears as a talking head on political programs, often discussing the case that he is shown litigating here, trying to block Trump’s Muslim ban.

His fellow lawyers include Brigitte Amiri, who specializes in reproductive health, who is fighting for a prisoner who is being forced to have a baby even though she wants an abortion. Dale Ho is an Asian-American lawyer who is also working on immigration. Joshua Block and Chase Strangio specialize on LGBTQ rights and oversee the case against the attempted Transgender ban in the military. (Strangio is transgender himself, so he takes the issue very seriously.)

We get to know the lawyers well in this fascinating film – their work, their families, their beliefs, their disappointments, their limitations, their importance in each of our lives. At the same time, we also learn that there is only so much that they can do. Ho discusses this eloquently towards the end of the film. They are just some people in two-stories of an office building in New York, and while they will do their best to stay on the front lines, change depends on us.

Which leads to the most important takeaway from The Fight. Vote. Vote like your life depended on it. Because, in many ways – as we’ve seen in the last three and a half years – it does.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved. Posted: July 31, 2020.

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