Amazon’s “All In: The Fight for Democracy” examines the turbulent history of voter suppression in the United States. Do not make the mistake of thinking that “All In” is a dry retread of your high school history class. This is an example of the best elements of documentary filmmaking coming together — a rich blend of archival footage, expert testimony and stunning animated sequences married with Stacey Abrams’s firsthand account of her personal history and headline-making run for the Georgia governorship in 2018.
“All In” is not an easy watch; nor should it be. Images of peaceful protests turned violent, police intimidation, blatant cruelty and racism will leave you emotionally reeling. The documentary revisis the ugliest parts of our history and reminds you, as 2020 has many times, that social justice is an ongoing struggle. “All In” walks us through the history of voting rights in America —a history of progress, immediately followed by setbacks and periods of suppression — one of which we are living through right now. By its very nature “All In,” is political, but do not let that keep you from embracing its universal message —voting is central to the American democracy, and our participation, our votes, are paramount.
The documentary is both an unflinching look at the past and a searing look at our current state of affairs. Its greatest achievement is perhaps the way it frankly walks viewers through how efforts to suppress voter turnout are actively taking place from Texas’s voter ID laws to South Dakota’s laws making it harder for Native Americans to register to vote. If you have doubts about the role of voter suppression in our current political landscape, “All In” answers them unequivocally, not with hyper-partisanship, but with facts and statistics impossible to ignore.
“All In” is at its best when it puts the human cost of voter suppression front and center, from first-hand accounts given by civil rights leaders and activists, to Abrams confronting her own election loss head-on. In 2018 Abrams lost the Georgia gubernatorial race by a razor-tight margin. An election that was marred with unprecedented voter roll purges and election interference, spearheaded by the Georgia Secretary of State Brain Kemp— Abrams’s opponent, and eventual victor.
Abrams is a fascinating subject for a documentary, her inherent star-power is palpable as she openly embraces the feelings of anger and disappointment she carried with her, having come so close to her greatest dream being realized. She wrestles with her place in history and her legacy as the descendent of generations who fought, and died, for the right to vote. If Abrams’s ultimate goal with “All In” is to ask her audience to not take that right for granted — to help viewers understand that voting is vital to our democracy — she succeeds beautifully.
Abrams and co-directors Liz Garbus (a two-time Academy Award -nominee) and Lisa Cortes (an Emmy -nominee) have created an essential viewing experience, a documentary that is current and vibrant — a document of living history that will resonate long after the credits stop rolling.