Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Lee Daniels' Richard Pryor Biopic Is Officially Ready to Go (Mike Epps, Eddie Murphy, Oprah Winfrey, Kate Hudson) Lee Daniels' Richard Pryor Biopic Is Officially Ready to Go (Mike Epps, Eddie Murphy, Oprah Winfrey, Kate Hudson) Righting a Past Wrong? Academy to Present Spike Lee with Honorary Oscar Righting a Past Wrong? Academy to Present Spike Lee with Honorary Oscar African-American Female Team Produce Indie Horror Film ‘The Dark Rite’ African-American Female Team Produce Indie Horror Film ‘The Dark Rite’ Viola Davis Says She Will Star in a Film Adaptation of 'Fences' Directed by Denzel Washington Viola Davis Says She Will Star in a Film Adaptation of 'Fences' Directed by Denzel Washington "This Is a Relationship" - Watch Michael Ealy Frighten Sanaa Lathan in Tense First Clip From 'The Perfect Guy' "This Is a Relationship" - Watch Michael Ealy Frighten Sanaa Lathan in Tense First Clip From 'The Perfect Guy' Vin Diesel Says He's Returning for a 'xXx' Threequel - Filming to Start in December Vin Diesel Says He's Returning for a 'xXx' Threequel - Filming to Start in December Updates on Steve McQueen's "Epic" Series Centered on a Black Community in London, Over 3 Decades Updates on Steve McQueen's "Epic" Series Centered on a Black Community in London, Over 3 Decades This Is What Angela Bassett and Naomi Campbell Will Look Like in 'American Horror Story: Hotel' This Is What Angela Bassett and Naomi Campbell Will Look Like in 'American Horror Story: Hotel' Quentin Tarantino Says 'The Hateful Eight' Will Be Timely & Will Tackle White Supremacy Quentin Tarantino Says 'The Hateful Eight' Will Be Timely & Will Tackle White Supremacy But What About Black Superheroines, You Ask? Watch Episode 1 of CW Seed's Vixen Series But What About Black Superheroines, You Ask? Watch Episode 1 of CW Seed's Vixen Series Watch: Trailer for Miniseries Based on Life of Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz (Coming This Fall) Watch: Trailer for Miniseries Based on Life of Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz (Coming This Fall) Watch: First Look at Season Three of 'Hit the Floor' Watch: First Look at Season Three of 'Hit the Floor' Brad Pitt's Plan B + 'Ex Machina' Distribution Company Team up for Barry Jenkins' 'Moonlight' Brad Pitt's Plan B + 'Ex Machina' Distribution Company Team up for Barry Jenkins' 'Moonlight' Jay Ellis and Yvonne Orji Join Issa Rae in 'Insecure' for HBO Jay Ellis and Yvonne Orji Join Issa Rae in 'Insecure' for HBO Tupac Shakur Facebook Page Posts Cryptic Message on Upcoming "Special Announcement." Biopic News? Tupac Shakur Facebook Page Posts Cryptic Message on Upcoming "Special Announcement." Biopic News? Weekend B.O. Aug 21-23 (F. Gary Gray Becomes a Prominent Member of the $100 Million Black Directors Club) Weekend B.O. Aug 21-23 (F. Gary Gray Becomes a Prominent Member of the $100 Million Black Directors Club) Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... AFM News: Danny Glover, Derek Luke Will Play Prison Inmates In 3D Drama 'Long Day Journey' AFM News: Danny Glover, Derek Luke Will Play Prison Inmates In 3D Drama 'Long Day Journey'

Review: 'Anita' and the Politics of Sex, Race and Power (In Theaters Today, 3/21)

Photo of Jai Tiggett By Jai Tiggett | Shadow and Act March 21, 2014 at 11:48AM

Review: 'Anita' and the Politics of Sex, Race and Power (In Theaters This Friday, 3/21)
4
Anita

It's been over two decades since the explosive 1991 hearings in which law professor Anita Hill discussed allegations of sexual misconduct by then U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. With the premiere of Anita, the new feature length documentary reflecting on those events, the question that continues to come up from audiences and press alike is, "Why tell this story now?"

When director Freida Lee Mock began filming in 2011, she was looking to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the hearings. But beyond the benchmark in American history, the film proves to be timely as it highlights issues surrounding sexual harassment that are very much alive today. The documentary is less about Thomas and the specific allegations than it is about the backlash that women in particular, and victimized people in general, face when they decide to stand against someone in a position of power. The film effectively takes us inside the assault on Anita Hill's character by the judiciary committee, as well as the media and the public. In this current climate of victim blaming in cases ranging from the Steubenville rape trial to the murders of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, Anita is a powerful reminder of how we view those who allege wrongdoing, and how we tend to place far more heat and responsibility on the victim than the attacker. 

Mock begins the film with a kindly voice on an answering machine. The message is for Ms. Hill, asking for "an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband." The infamous recording left in 2010 by Ginni Thomas, Clarence Thomas' wife, is laughable, but sets the tone for how Hill is treated throughout her testimony. From the beginning, it's clear that Hill, not Thomas, is the one who's on trial. 

The film is framed around footage from the hearings, in which Hill was questioned by a Senate judiciary panel of 14 white men with seemingly little understanding of sexual harassment in the workplace. Scenes of Hill having to explain, and re-explain, Thomas' sexually explicit talk in excruciating detail are punctuated by news footage of various pundits weighing in on the situation. Why did she wait so long to report Thomas' behavior? What might she have done to provoke it? And what could she stand to gain by lying about the allegations?

The answer, as it turns out, is very little. Candid interviews with Hill and her supporters, including journalists Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, shed light on what was happening behind the scenes - the hostile Republicans on the committee trying to protect Pres. Bush's nominee, the Democrats, including Ted Kennedy and Committee Chair Joe Biden, afraid to challenge Thomas as a black conservative, and the public grappling for a definition of workplace sexual harassment and an effective process to deal with it. 

Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree, the only black male member of Hill's legal team, also explains the backlash from black men who felt betrayed by what they saw as a woman publicly attacking a successful member of the community. Effectively, it turns out to be Thomas, not Hill, who uses race to his advantage. (Who can forget his comment about the hearings being a "high tech lynching for uppity blacks"?) With Thomas and his supporters seen only in archival footage, the film stands firmly on the side of Hill. And it's hard not to, viewing it from a modern lens with what we now know about sexual harassment. Hill pays an incredible price for not keeping silent - her career is derailed, her life and family threatened, her sense of security and privacy shaken. 

But ultimately, Anita is a story of resilience, as Mock spends some time detailing Hill's life after the fated hearings. With Thomas' eventual confirmation to the Supreme Court, we could easily think the struggle and humiliation that Hill faced was for naught. But Mock continues to follow her triumphant return to her home state of Oklahoma and catch up with her work as a professor and activist. It's here that the film's theme resonates best, as we learn about the longterm impact of the hearings and Hill's influence on a new generation. 

With superior tech aspects and a powerful theme, Anita is highly recommended viewing. It's also relevant, allowing us a marker to see just how far we've come in our understanding of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and how far we still have to go in our attitudes towards victims. 

Samuel Goldwyn Films acquired U.S. rights to Anita, setting an official release date of March 21, 2014, opening today, in NY and CA first, followed by a gradual expansion.

Click HERE for exact cities and theater locations the film opens in today, as well as future expansion dates.

This article is related to: Freida Mock


Shadow & ActNewsletter