Anita Hill Shines in Sundance Documentary by Oscar-Winning Director Freida Mock
Set against the backdrop of sex, politics, and race, “Anita” is an inspiring film about the power of integrity
Park City, Utah — After two decades of silence, Anita Hill intimately discusses the contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings for nominee Clarence Thomas through the lens of veteran documentary filmmaker, Freida Mock.
Elegant and poised, Hill welcomed questions from media at the Sundance Film Festival screening of “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power.” When asked why she chose Mock to share her side of the story, she said it simply felt right.
“It had to do, of course, with the quality of her work,” Hill said, adding that she ultimately needed a director she trusted so her story would be “in good hands.”
Set against a backdrop of sex, politics, and race the film centers around Hill’s emotions during her nine-hour testimony. It opens, however, with the voicemail from Ginny Thomas — the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas — who left Hill a bizarre message in 2010 requesting that Hill apologize for the claims she made against her husband.
Almost immediately, the film then delves into the most explicit content of Hill’s testimony and quickly recalls blocked memories of a notoriously tainted Coke can and reports that Justice Thomas shared details on how he is endowed with more than the country’s highest judicial seat.
Addressing such graphic accounts in her hearings, Hill elaborates on each subject with great detail and even greater poise. And amidst the controversy and accusations that she is a “scorned woman,” Hill is as equally graceful as she is divisive.
The film focuses solely on her story in that not only is Hill the leading character, it is told entirely from her or her supporters’ perspectives. In a Q&A session following the packed Sundance screening, Mock told the audience that she chose not to interview any of the Senators present at the testimony.
“I wanted to tell Anita’s story,” she said quite simply.
Highlighting heroines at the center of unsolicited controversy is familiar subject matter for Mock. In 1991 she won an Academy Award for “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision” a documentary on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the outrage, which arose when the country learned that a 21-year-old Chinese American student had submitted the winning design.
“My films are stories about people with strong social and political aspects behind it,” said Mock. “They’re absolutely dramatically-driven.”
Beautifully crafted, “Anita” follows this approach in its first hour as Hill and a number of her supporters narrate the most appalling moments of her intense testimony.
Yet it’s a shame that Mock doesn’t include interviews from some of the 14 Senators present at the 1991 hearings such as Sen. Orrin Hatch or Vice President Joe Biden. Presumably, such content would have created a greater degree of drama for the 86-minute film, which strays from Hill’s testimony roughly after an hour and almost flounders in its last thirty minutes.
Victory does reign in the film’s final act as viewers learn that the hearings eventually offered Hill a greater sense of purpose.
“They changed the trajectory of my life,” Hill states in the film as focus shifts to her life after the hearings.
She remains an advocate of women’s rights and reconnects with her supporters at annual conferences. She is not married, nor is she single. And yes, she still has the blue dress.
While Hill’s role in the development and discourse of sexual harassment laws is most influential, the film is not simply one about women’s rights in the workplace — it’s a story about integrity and the power within it.
In the decades following her testimony, Hill has thrived personally while maintaining a relatively low profile. When asked why she finally chose to share her story in great detail, she paused for a moment.
“What I realized over the last 20 years is that these issues are bigger than me and there is value in being able to speak out,” she said. “And if you have a voice, you should use it.”
A powerful and relevant documentary, “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power” shows Hill once again testifying on-screen. Only this time, as viewers watch the brilliantly poised law professor in her iconic blue dress, Hill isn’t asked to defend her story.
Mock does so instead.
“Anita: Speaking Truth to Power” premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
Review By: Sela Foukimoana
*YouTube video courtesy Of Sundance Channel