The Fight

 

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The threat to the rights of individuals in Trump's America are put under the spotlight.

 
Fight, The
   

There are two objectives behind this documentary and one of them is to pay tribute to an American institution that has existed for a hundred years, ACLU. With its headquarters in New York, the American Civil Liberties Union, a non-partisan body to protect the rights of individuals living in the United States, clearly deserves to be the subject of a feature film. Had the filmmakers here - Elyse Steinberg, Eli B. Despres and Josh Kriegman - so chosen, we might have had a history of ACLU which for many viewers would have been unfamiliar ground. However, in the event The Fight reveals a second aim, one that has shaped the film. Given that ACLU has filed around 150 lawsuits against the Trump administration, the filmmakers have opted to make this a work that takes four examples of that to illustrate how the outlook and behaviour of America's current President have made the existence of ACLU more important than ever.

 

At the outset we meet ACLU's deputy director, the veteran Lee Gelernt. He gives us a tour of their premises and we get to see several of their staff both on duty and at home. This is done in a deliberately informal manner as we get to know employees who are devoted to their work. It is against this background that The Fight covers four recent contrasted cases that will eventually go to court. They are not taken one by one but are intermingled so that we follow their progress and are introduced to the individuals handling each of them. Dale Ho, who is a voting rights specialist, deals with the need to confront a proposed new immigration question about citizenship to be included in the 2020 census and Brigitte Amiri acts on behalf of a 17-year-old rape victim in a Refugee Resettlement who has been denied the right to an abortion. Proposals to prevent transgender people serving in the American military come under scrutiny as two specialists in LGBT rights Joshua Block and Chase Strangio (the latter being transgender himself) act on behalf of a respected soldier, Brock Stone. The fourth case is one concerning asylum seekers and the policy which allowed parents to be separated from their children.

 

All of this is put in context by incorporating in addition considerable newsreel footage featuring Donald Trump and the one drawback to this film is that from the swearing in of the President to comments on Charlottesville so much of it is by now very, very familiar. Those of us who abhor Trump will undoubtedly agree that we should not lose sight of these past actions of his, but only once does The Fight achieve an impact that feels like a fresh insight. That happens in an incidental scene in which an asylum seeker in Tijuana not otherwise featured in the film speaks of how he was separated from his son overnight. He speaks so simply, so directly that a sadly familiar situation hits you between the eyes as though for the first time. Much else in The Fight arouses sympathy and anger and there is a neat use of animation when the cases reach court to overcome the fact that cameras were not allowed inside. But the fact remains that for months now Trump has been exposed day after day on television and that inevitably means that the sense of déja vu when watching this film is very high indeed.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Lee Gelernt, Brigitte Amiri, Dale Ho, Chase Strangio, Joshua Block, Anthony D. Romero, Jeffery Robinson, Meagan Burrows, Brock Stone, David Cole, Noah Strangio.

 

Dir Elyse Steinberg, Eli B. Despres and Josh Kriegman, Pro Eli B. Despres, Peggy Drexler, Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg and others, Ph Sean McGing, Ed Eli B. Despres, Greg Finton and Kim Roberts, Music Juan Luqui and Gustavo Santaolalla, Animation Dir Arvid Steen.

 

Edgeline Films/Bow and Arrow Entertainment/Drexler Films-Dogwoof.
96 mins. USA. 2020. Rel: 31 July 2020. Available on Curzon Home Cinema. No Cert.