Filmmakers Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg (2016's Wiener on the nefarious New York Congressman Anthony Wiener) join forces once again and welcome Eli B. Despres into the director's circle for The Fight, a film you'll probably hear described as a "David and Goliath" kind of thing for the next little bit.
Therein, American Civil Liberties Union -attorneys take on some of the Trump administration's most despicable deeds—abortion rights for immigrants; the dreaded "Are you a citizen?" Census question; trans folks' right to enlist in the military and kids caged in border area internment camps. Through the eyes of lawyers Brigitte Amari, Lee Gelernt, David Ho, Chase Strangio and Joshua Block, we observe each case in intertwined fashion, meeting some of the clients, rifling through some of POTUS' darker, more hateful moves and gaining an all-around clearer perspective about what it is, exactly, that the ACLU does.
On the one hand, it's an inspiring portrait of progressive lawyers hellbent on grinding themselves into oblivion if it's in service of the case. Ho's family, for example, winds up taking a backseat to most of his travels and court dates, but he waxes philosophical on "this moment" with a grim determination that certainly makes one wonder how or if they've contributed to the fight against the terrors in power enough. Elsewhere, sadly, we get mere glimpses into the lives of the other lawyers. Strangio, for example, raises an unruly kid while trying to work; Gelernt's lamentation on the separation of immigrant parents and children feels also feels like a universal refrain, but both scenarios are all too brief within the confines of the film's 90 minutes.
That short runtime detracts in other ways as well, such as in scenes which remind us the ACLU will work for anyone. This includes far right instigators in Charlottesville, Virginia, circa 2017, which ultimately led to the death of protestor Heather Heyer, and a famous 1978 free speech case wherein the org defended neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois.
Part of everyone being entitled to legal representation is that it does mean everyone, and though the larger implications therein are countless, The Fight seems to gloss over the uglier cases in a too-quick melange of fast and furious cuts and topic changes.
As such, questions still loom large, even if the concluding moments of the film are some of the most hopeful and uplifting in recent documentary memory.
+Worthy fights; cool lawyers; better understanding of the ACLU
-Too short; almost fawning; not quite enough info
Directed by Eli B. Despres, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg
Violet Crown Virtual Cinema, PG-13, 96 min.