REVIEW: ‘All In : The Fight For Democracy’ emphasizes the importance of voting



“All In” explores many types of voter rights movements including the women’s suffrage movement.

On the eve of the upcoming November election, Stacey Abrams, Liz Garbus, Lisa Cortés and Amazon studios joined forces to release “All In: The Fight For Democracy,” a documentary film emphasizing the importance of voting and America’s long history of voter suppression. 

Pulling both double duty as a chronicle of Abrams’ gubernatorial race as well as a history of voter suppression as whole, “All In: The Fight for Democracy” is an urgent, slickly-produced documentary that explores the glaring cracks in the foundation of our nation’s most fundamental values: the right to vote. 

Centering around — and produced by — Georgia lawmaker Stacey Abrams, the film grounds its intimidatingly large subject matter by tying it down to Earth via Abrams’ personal journey to a career in politics, and her own personal experiences with the fight against voter suppression. As we learn, Abrams was born and bred for a career in politics — she had two high-achieving parents and was raised in an incredibly supportive environment, but several significant alterations in her young life made it very clear that if she were to pursue politics, there were systemic changes that needed to be made before she could do so.

It’s easy to forget that segregation in the United States isn’t some nebulous thing that our great-great-grandparents dealt with decades ago — there were still segregationist laws being phased out of American governing bodies, which meant that even though she was a teen in the 90s, Abrams found herself fighting an uphill battle against the voter suppression that has run rampant in our country for decades. 

Interestingly enough, as the film explains, voter suppression is more of a modern issue than many realize. After reconstruction and the Constitution was amended so that black men had the right to vote, there was a sudden surge in black lawmakers being elected and incredibly high rates of black voter participation — and it wasn’t until the 1910s that new Jim Crow laws seeped into legislation again, and voter suppression began to skyrocket. 

Even though explicitly banning a person from voting based on their race had been outlawed, literacy tests, poll taxes and death threats became regular fixtures in southern counties where black men attempted to exercise their constitutional right. “All In” illustrates these points poignantly through the strategic use of old political cartoons and newspaper clippings that report lynchings and murders of black men who were murdered for the crime of voting. 

The film’s history of voter suppression is certainly fascinating (and condemning), but even more damning is the film’s analysis of current voter suppression statistics and methods. Although thankfully we’ve moved past overt restrictions like literacy tests and lynching, the film makes it very clear that anyone who believes voter suppression isn’t an issue is either willfully ignorant or lying to themselves. 

It’s difficult to watch the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election play out with commentary from Abrams and co., because not only do you know how it’s going to end, but the more you learn about why the result turned out the way it did, the more upsetting it becomes. Directors Garbus and Cortés have an uncanny ability for making even the most mundane, uninteresting legislative and legal jargon gripping, and despite the fact that the latter half of the film is dedicated almost entirely to breaking down the ins-and-outs of Georgia legislative policy, the film never lags or drops. 

At the film portrays it, it’s almost sinister the lengths that Brian Kemp and his fellow Republican lawmakers were willing to go to win him the election. The idea that any elected official would intentionally suppress a constituent from voting — the very same constituent that he is attempting to have governing power over — is sickening. 

With its all-star political cast of interviewees, expert use of archival footage and historical documentation, and near-flawless pacing, “All In: The Fight For Democracy” is a must-watch not only for those interested in documentary filmmaking but for anyone who values the integrity of elections in the United States of America.