Anita: Speaking Truth to Power (2013)
Cast includes: Anita Hill
Writer/Director: Freida Lee Mock (Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision)
Genre: Documentary (95 minutes)
October 9, 2010… when Professor Anita Hill gets to her office at Brandeis University, there’s a surprising message on her phone. It’s from Ginny Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. “It’s time you give us an apology… You need to help us understand why you did what you did.” Anita tells us her initial response to the message… “I thought this has to be someone impersonating her.” Going back to July 1, 1991... President George HW Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to fill an opening on the Supreme Court. Anita expected to be part of the vetting process because she had worked with Thomas in 1982 when he was the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. When the Senate contacted her, they already knew about a potential problem… “We understand you experienced sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas.” Anita knew she needed to answer truthfully.
Her written statement soon became the topic of a televised 9-hour Senate Vetting Committee interrogation and media circus. Not only was the testimony graphic and salacious, the all-male panel seemed totally unfamiliar with the concept of sexual harassment. They made her go over the specifics again and again… talking about pornography, pubic hair, big breasted women, penis size and “Long Dong Silver.” She was accused of making it all up, even though she had left the job to escape the situation… even though she had discussed it with close friends at the time… even though she took and passed a polygraph. The hearing soon turned into a trial of Anita Hill. While she had been willing to give her statement, she didn’t expect to have to educate a skeptical panel on the very basics of sexual harassment. “It’s not about sex. It’s about power and control.” Despite their protests… “an ugly issue… dirty and disgusting,” they made her repeat the disgusting details again and again.
For those of us who remember the hearings, it’s hard to believe it was less than a quarter century ago… an era when women could be harassed without any hope of justice. While the issue of sexual harassment still has not been addressed adequately, in 1991, it was barely a concept. After the hearing, Anita expected to return to her quiet life as a law professor in Oklahoma, but nothing would ever be the same. Of course, everyone knows that Clarence Thomas did get confirmed and has become what many would consider one of the lesser lights on the court. But during the hearings his defense was absolutely brilliant… “This is nothing but a high-tech lynching of an uppity black man.” He trumped the gender card with the race card! It became virtually impossible for the panel of white men to vote against confirmation after being shamed by Thomas. Anita isn’t bitter, nor is she sorry she told the truth. She’s gone on to become one of the leaders of a movement to promote workplace equality and fair treatment of women. Anita is an important film because much of the progress is taken for granted. But as the film shows, there’s still work to be done.
3 popped kernels
Anita Hill spoke truth to power and empowered women to fight for fair treatment
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Art House
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: Anita Hill testimony
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & Thought Provoking