The documentary All In: The Fight for Democracy is very good. And quite infuriating. As the New York Times subtitle of the review notes, “with snapshots and stories of voter suppression yesterday and today, [it] carries an urgent message: Vote!”
But they don’t make it easy. “The broad strokes of the history in the film are likely to be familiar to viewers, but some of the details may not be… The recurring theme is that every major advancement for voting rights in the United States has been met with a counterreaction that hollows out those rights.”
Yet the Constitution points to a broadening of the right. Read amendments 14, 15, 19, 23, 24, and 26, and arguably others.
The movie describes the Florida debacle., where the citizens voted to allow ex-felons to vote, but the state essentially reneged. I wrote about that here.
The Stacey Abrams experience is mentioned early. She was the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia in 2018, running against Republican Brian Kemp. Tens of thousands of voters were disenfranchised by the state Secretary of State, who was Brian Kemp. It was like playing tennis with the chair umpire.
“Abrams’s sections of the film are also a memoir: She remembers her grandmother telling her about casting her first vote, after the Voting Rights Act passed, and how she still felt terrified to exercise her franchise. At another point, Abrams notes that chronic voter suppression has had a ‘pernicious’ effect: ‘It convinces you that maybe it’s not worth trying again,’ she says.
“In its shifting of topics and breadth of material, “All In” gives the impression of being a movie that the directors, Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés, rushed to complete to meet the moment. (There is footage of Wisconsinites voting during the pandemic in April.) In a sense, it’s less a documentary for posterity than an urgent broadcast.”
The Times article refers to Carol Anderson, “a professor of African American studies at Emory, as “one of the most engaging interviewees.” She “relates the story of Maceo Snipes, a World War II veteran in Georgia who was the only African-American to vote in his area in 1946.” He was shot and killed for his effort.
She and “journalist Ari Berman…discuss… Chief Justice John G. Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion in [the evil] Shelby County v. Holder” case. That’s the “2013 decision that struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act,” from which a lot of new disenfranchisement stemmed. Roberts “had been a foe of the act as a young lawyer.”
Oh, check out this related website to find out how to register and vote.
Thumbs way up
The 62 critics who reviewed All In at Rotten Tomatoes were unanimous in their praise of the film. It addresses “barriers to voting that most people don’t even know is a threat to their basic rights as citizens.” “A thorough but accessible guide to the history of voting in the US and what that history means for the electorate today.”
This definitely rings true: “The dismaying ebb and flow of justice is a major point in the film, with multiple pundits noting that periods of swift progress are often followed by equally if not more stringent rollbacks.” And it “makes a very convincing argument that the right to vote needs to be protected, and that democracy itself is under siege.”
More yin and yang: Stacey Abrams, a producer of the film, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to expand access to the right to vote. And Republicans have ALREADY introduced over 100 voter suppression bills in 2021.