Since we’re young, we’re taught that we live in a democratic republic. We’re taught that representation is what the founding fathers fought for. And although the founding fathers had a very narrow definition of equality back then, we were taught that every person has the right to vote.
Unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily the case today. While explicit laws restricting who can vote may not exist, those in power have found other, sneakier methods to shape the electorate. In the new documentary from Amazon, All In: The Fight for Democracy, directors Lisa Cortes and Liz Garbus craft the history of voter suppression around a well-known recent case, Stacey Abrams’ run for Georgia Governor in 2018. It’s an insightful and persuasive look at a problem that has continually plagued our country.
In centering the film around Abrams, the directors smartly couch the abstract idea of voter suppression in the concrete life experiences of Abrams. She grew up with parents who taught them to value church, education, and voting. From a young age, she not only knew the importance of voting but also how being Black could affect how others see you. After graduating valedictorian of her high school class, she and her parents were excited to be invited to the Governor’s Mansion with all other Georgian valedictorians. That is until they were denied entry by the security guard at the gate for not “looking like they belonged” there.
The film covers the history of voter suppression from the Declaration of Independence to modern-day tactics of voter registration purges and voter ID laws. While many of the milestones are familiar (Reconstruction, the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the Voting Rights Act), it’s peppered with anecdotes and statistics that vividly illustrate just how devastating the effects of suppression were.
The documentary mostly uses archival footage with talking head expert interviews and employs animated re-enactments for some of Abrams’ history. Creatively, it’s certainly not reinventing the wheel. But the straightforward storytelling keeps its argument against voter suppression front and center, ending with a call-to-action for viewers to get involved.
With so many people more politically active than ever, I’m not sure All In: The Fight for Democracy will do more than preach to the choir. However, if it can get more people to take action and get involved, then I guess the preaching will be deemed effective.