All In: The Fight for American Democracy is the kind of political documentary that provides a slick, bland overview of its particular issue without leaving much of an impression on the viewer. This isn’t to say that the film, directed by Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés, and co-produced by Stacey Abrams, about the mostly conservative efforts to limit voting rights in America isn’t presenting important information, but it often feels less like a film than a public service announcement.
Tracing the history of American democracy from the days when only white male landowners could vote, to the widespread disenfranchisement of Black voters in the Jim Crow south, to the recent gutting of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1964 at the hands of the Supreme Court, All In lays out a compelling case against such contemporary tactics of voter suppression as voter ID and gerrymandering. And while it isn’t likely to change any hearts or minds because it’s basically preaching to the choir, its succinct explanations of why these things are harmful offer strong rebuttals for whatever Republican propaganda your racist uncle is probably spouting on Facebook. But beyond that, All In feels more like the liberal answer to PragerU — a well-reasoned social media presentation that traffics in easily digestible soundbites that seems more suited to a high school civics class than the cinema. Don’t take this as a condemnation of the content, which is certainly important for the preservation of our Democracy in ways that feel more urgent than ever. But while All In succeeds as a piece of inoffensive agitprop, it ultimately comes up short as a film — it makes no waves and leaves no strong impressions on the viewer. For a film that seeks to warn us about the dire consequences of losing our democracy, All In lacks a certain fire, blandly shot and edited in its attempt to appeal to the average American voter. The choice is understandable, but for those who already know what’s at stake in this election, All In is nothing but an extended political ad.
You can currently stream Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés’ All In: The Fight for Democracy on Amazon Prime.