Sunday, March 30, 2014

Film Review | Anita: Speaking Truth to Power

 AlterNet| March 29, 2014  | By Thomas Delapa 

'Anita: Speaking Truth to Power' Reignites Fury Over Sexual Harassment and Political Might

Two decades after Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Freida Mock documents the confirmation of Clarence Thomas.

For investigative reporter Jane Mayer (then with the Wall Street Journal), the televised hearings—“Judge Judy” crossed with the Playboy Channel—were just a smokescreen for Democratic and Republican senators alike: “It wasn’t about the truth ... it was about winning.” Despite a majority of Democrats on the committee, Hill was largely led to the dogs alone. Ted Kennedy sat mostly sullen and stone-faced as a bit player.

An Oscar winner for the superior documentary, Maya Lin: A Strong Vision, Mock may not win votes from the pro-Thomas minority, but she pointedly sets out to give Hill back her voice, free of the clumsy, tedious and badgering questions posed by Biden and company. Between long, still-shocking reruns from that R-rated C-SPAN sur-reality show watched by millions in 1991, we are presented with evidence that Hill has moved on, literally, leaving her beloved small-town Oklahoma life for the greener (and far bluer) pastures of Massachusetts and Brandeis University after years of death threats, hate mail, vicious phone calls, and public confrontations.

As for Thomas himself, not surprisingly he’s nolo contendre except for his infamous, scenery-chewing costarring role as self-professed victim of a “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.” Through all his indignant denials to the committee and the nation regarding any hint of sexual harassment toward Hill (Coke? Never touch the stuff) while she was his assistant at the EEOC and the U.S. Department of Education in the 1980s, Thomas didn’t just play the race card, he dealt the whole deck to the committee members, who promptly folded under pressure. Only Sen. Paul Simon from the Land of Lincoln objected to Thomas’ nomination, while a few days later the uber-conservative Thomas eked out a win in the full senate 50-48. In one of American history’s most unjust ironies, Thomas replaced the revered Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice and the victorious voice behind the landmark 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Civil Rights decision.

But from the ashes of Hill’s public humiliation, a new wave of female empowerment rose up from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., and beyond: witness the 1992 “Year of the Woman” at the ballot box, renewed political vigor by females of all parties and races, and a new awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace. Today Anita Hill lives on as both a woman and a symbol. For her legions of admirers, she’ll always be standing on the mountaintop.