|Anita Hill is not only a worthy subject for a film, but is appropriately presented as an important role model for both men and women.|
Anita (2013) ***
Dir. Frieda Mock
Starring: Anita Hill
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Let me get this out of the way - Anita Hill is a hero. No two ways about it. At a time when sexual harassment in the workplace was rampant, yet publicly unheard of and never acknowledged, Hill went up against a long table of "old boys" during the historic 1991 Senate hearings.
The high profile nominee to the Supreme Court was Clarence Thomas. Hill was dragged into the limelight to give testimony. She didn't necessarily have to do it, but she believed that it was her duty as a citizen in a (purportedly) Democratic nation to publicly state the truth when her country asked her to. In front of rolling cameras and hordes of paparazzi, Hill was belittled by both Democratic and Republic Senators who cast aspersions upon her character, motivations and honesty.
Director Frieda Mock has delivered half of a great movie here. The first 45 minutes is a superbly edited blend of the actual taped testimony, archival footage, still imagess, contemporary interviews with supporters and detractors and perhaps most importantly, new interviews with Hill herself - the first time since the hearings that she's gone on public record ON FILM.
The movie in these sections works as a compelling refresher - replete with narrative highs and lows - and an overwhelming sense of frustration that Hill's testimony seemed to victimize her all over again.
Then, as now, the patriarchal nature of government yields New World Order puppets purporting to be freely elected representatives of the People. Instead, they hold ever-so steadfastly onto their Old Boys Club dog-pack obligations, kowtowing shamelessly to the big money that's placed them "in charge" in the first place.
Having to even look at these politicians attempting to cut down Ms. Hill is deeply disturbing. We can never cease feeling their contempt, smugness and double standard disgust as they attempt to protect their interests and their cronies.
Hill's testimony is so clear and refreshing, yet watching this, I almost felt compelled to get up and punch a few of the senatorial assholes in the face. Obviously hoping to trip her up, they force Hill to repeat details endlessly and downright patronize her. These are not learned gentlemen - they're little more than thugs and/or rednecks.
Senator Ted Kennedy is especially ineffectual. Though JFK and RFK were inveterate womanizers, I can't help but think they'd have displayed far more manly gumption than bro' Teddy - though their incredulity would have been completely and utterly dishonest.
Anita Hill's testimony brought the notion of sexual harassment into the public eye. For this, she became an instant role model for women of every age all over the world. Not so to Clarence Thomas's deluded wife who is heard leaving a relatively recent and grotesquely idiotic voicemail for Hill that petulantly demands she do the "right thing" and recant her testimony.
Nest-feathering types want everyone but themselves (or their own kind) to recant. They're above all wrong-doing.
This is all powerful stuff, however, where the movie stumbles is its last half where Mock goes out of her way to build up to an overwhelmingly feel-good ending as she charts Hill's live lectures. The picture spins its wheels endlessly here and resembles one of those "inspiring" mini-docs on Oprah (though running much longer).
There's simply a whole lotta beaming going on. Anita's guest lecture hosts introduce her and beam, her audiences beam and yes, Anita beams - it's one beam-fest after another that never really offers up anything new. It's far too safe, too easy and goes over territory that could have been dispensed with far more brevity. I suspect Mock realized just how harrowing the senate committee hearings come off that she needed to provide balance.
If that was her intent, she was in error. All it provides is tedium.
In spite of this, I'd still urge audiences to not deprive themselves of the film's excellent first half and the same goes for the picture's inherent value as very important audio-visual material to show all kids in all schools. The tale of her testimony has considerable worth for young viewers on how important it is to maintain your self respect and never put up with sexual harassment in the workplace.
Anita Hill is, first, foremost and for always, a role model for both men and women - something the film does succeed in presenting.
"Anita" is playing at the Hot Docs film festival. For tickets, contact Hot Docs online HERE.