A more accurate title for The Fight might have been The Fights, because it’s actually about four fights the ACLU fought, out of many more than couldn’t fit into one film. Perhaps they’re saving the plural title for their Aliens style next level sequel. Of course, it refers to the one big fight for human rights. The individual fights are battles.
The Fight profiles four big recent cases the ACLU took on. You’ve probably heard about their battle against Donald Trump’s travel ban. That got a lot of publicity. They also took on reuniting immigrants with their children after separations by this administration. They took on the Trump Administration’s census that added a question about citizenship. They also took on an abortion case where a panel including future Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanagh himself wanted to delay a prisoner’s procedure until the point at which an abortion would become illegal.
And that’s just four. These are obviously four cases where a liberal left audience would be on the ACLU’s side. For viewers on the side of immigrants, of women’s rights to choose and against the overreach of the executive branch, it is inspiring and reassuring to see that there are lawyers fighting the fight.
The outcomes of these four cases are varied, and you can look up which ones were successful and in which cases the ACLU could not prevail. The Fight documents the personalities of the people who devote their lives to these pivotal human rights issues. They are human. They get excited and relieved when a favorable decision comes down. They also get flustered. They don’t know how to use cell phone chargers or printers, and frankly they don’t have to. They only need to know how to convince a judge not to side on the wrong side of history.
The film does present a more controversial counterexample to the ACLU’s righteous causes. They also defended the right of the Charlottesville Nazis to protest. When the protest turns violent and ends in Heather Hyer’s death, the ACLU does a debrief. ACLU Director David Cole still believes they have to protect the First Amendment right to protest because if the government starts picking and choosing, Trump will silence any critical voices.
Another ACLU member disagrees. He feels they enabled Hyer’s death because this was not the 1977 Skokie, IL Nazis. These were people with weapons in a climate that was already inciting violence from the top down.
The Fight is not really a film to provoke debate. Except for the Charlottesville case, it assumes the viewer is on the ACLU’s side and it’s more of a document about how they succeed and when they can’t despite their most noble efforts. Even as politically engaged as I’ve been since 2016, I didn’t know the day to day of it all and I found The Fight to be an admirable portrait of how one can persevere through seemingly unfathomable struggles.