It’s only fitting that Kriegman and Steinberg have re-teamed with their brilliant “Weiner” editor Eli Despres to direct “The Fight,” an unofficial follow-up documentary that tackles a handful of Trump’s inhumane policies, while embodying the empathy that he blatantly lacks. Consider how the president, in one of the film’s most chilling scenes, earns cheers from his base by mocking the pain of immigrants fleeing the violence in their home countries by seeking asylum in the United States. “I’m afraid for my life!” Trump wails with all the unfeeling sarcasm of an eighth grade bully, displaying the sociopathic tendencies instilled in him by his father and detailed at length by his niece Mary in her new book.
It is precisely that sort of mentality that the American Civil Liberties Union has spent the past century combating, and this film marks the first time that they have granted access to their offices in New York City. So impressed were the filmmakers with the ACLU’s victorious efforts to block the president’s Muslim ban during his first days in office that they decided to focus their collective lens on four particular lawsuits filed by the organization against the Trump administration.
Such an approach could’ve easily proven to be overwhelming, as Trump’s unconstitutional assault on civil rights has ensured that the hits will keep on coming, with enough egregious offenses to distract us from the more insidious ones. Thankfully, Despres and his fellow editors, “Waiting for ‘Superman’”’s Greg Finton and Kim Roberts, are adept at juxtaposing multiple story threads while allowing for enough small endearing moments to keep the crisp 96-minute picture from devolving into an expositional slog. As evidenced in “Weiner,” this film’s trio of directors possess a keen eye for the humorous idiosyncrasies inherent in their subjects’ lives.
Laughter is an essential fuel when dealing with subject matter as heavy as this, and “The Fight” does a splendid job of humanizing its heroic lawyers, particularly when they fumble with the shortcomings of modern technology (such as voice recognition software that mistakes the words “after the fact” for “Ben Affleck”). The film also doesn’t shy away from the friction that occurred within the ACLU after it defended the right of white supremacists to hold their Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, an appalling display of racist vitriol that served as a pivotal wake-up call to countless Americans who bought into the fallacy that a “post-racial society” was ushered in by the election of Barack Obama.