‘Anita’: a portrait in dignity
A 3.5-star review of “Anita,” a documentary about the life of Anita Hill, during and after contentious Senate hearings in 1991 over the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘Anita,’ a documentary directed by Freida Mock. 77 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Sundance Cinemas.
A quiet, dignified film, as befits its subject, “Anita” presents the life of Anita Hill in two halves. The first half is, of course, dominated by the Senate hearings in 1991, where Hill testified that she had been sexually harassed by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, and which made the reserved Oklahoma law professor into a household name. Hill’s life began again after that experience; Freida Mock’s film is, essentially, about the birth of an activist.
If you’re old enough to remember a bit about those Senate hearings, “Anita” just might rile you up all over again; particularly upon hearing Hill being asked “Are you a scorned woman?” in a voice dripping with condescension. “This wasn’t about the truth, it was about winning,” was Hill’s sad conclusion about the hearings (which resulted in Hill being denounced as a liar — over, in the words of a senator, “this sexual-harassment crap” — and going home to a chorus of death threats).
But Hill, though quiet, wasn’t easily broken. The film shows us how this beloved youngest daughter of an Oklahoma farm family (there are “a lot of people encouraging you when you’re the youngest of 13,” she wryly notes) drew strength from her parents, siblings and friends — and from the numerous letters she received after the hearings, reminding her that this was something much bigger than herself. (Several file cabinets sit in her tidy basement today, filled with those letters.) Hill, now a faculty member of Brandeis University, soon realized that, in her words, “sexual harassment is just part of a larger issue of gender inequality,” and became a voice for change, inspiring a generation. As Hill says — and personifies — in the film, “honesty, dignity and courage is what will be remembered.”
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org