Lisa Cortes interview: ‘All In: The Fight for Democracy’ documentary
Perhaps no documentary is more timely — purposefully — this year than “All In: The Fight for Democracy.” The Amazon film, which was released in September, spotlights voter suppression, weaving together historical context, personal stories and current sagas, including Stacey Abrams’ notorious loss in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race, to drill home that the fight to preserve the right to vote is never truly over.
“We started to talk to some other folks in the film [about] this concept of how the past is prologue to this present moment that we find ourselves in, and that in order to understand what happened to Stacey Abrams in Georgia in 2018, one had to understand the deeper history,” Lisa Cortés, who co-directed “All In” with Liz Garbus, said during Gold Derby’s Meet the BTL Experts: Film Documentary panel (watch above). “A lot of time was spent looking at the architecture of voter suppression and the analogies between historical moments that we would think were over, but like the monster that voter suppression is, it resurfaces.”
For every voting rights amendment or act that’s been passed over the centuries, progress can take two steps back, like the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 that paved the way for voter suppression tactics in numerous states, or history repeats itself.
“Post-Reconstruction, we have these Florida vagrancy laws that are incarcerating Black men — they’re losing the right to vote. So the natural contemporary story for us to look at was that of Desmond Meade and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, and their work with returning citizens [with previous felony convictions] to be able to vote again,” Cortés explained. “You might see them as two separate moments, but there’s a very strong connective tissue between the past and the present.”
After her loss, Abrams, who’s a producer on “All In,” founded Fair Fight Action to combat voter suppression and registered a staggering 800,000 new voters in Georgia, helping turn the state blue for President-elect Joe Biden this election. Like all of us, Cortés, who won an Emmy for “The Apollo,” was waiting with bated breath for the results.
“I’m happy to say that I’m finally breathing again. We went into the election season with so much trepidation as Americans based on the discord and the falsities that were being cast about,” she said. “I think Georgia’s history and what happened there is not just a singular moment that we were able to look at, but it also speaks to this greater American history and struggle for progress for democracy, and the recognition of marginalized voices. There’s this wonderful intersection with our film, its examination of history, and Stacey Abrams and her journey that I’m so grateful we’ve been able to share on numerous platforms because of the lens on all of those moving pieces of our complicated history.”