Documentary Sheds New Light on the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas Controversy

Karen Wright

 

Anita: Speaking Truth To Power is one side of the Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas story. Hill, the young, African-American female attorney who addressed the Senate committee alleging that the then Supreme Court Justice nominee, Thomas, had sexually harassed her years earlier.

 

The documentary follows the now middle-aged Anita who has spent the 20-plus years since the hearing dealing with the backlash of the allegations and the shift in her career focus that ensued.

 

Anita begins with the lead-up to the hearing and is careful to present Hill as a strong, beautiful, bright woman, already an accomplished lawyer in her 20s, with deep-rooted values and a desire to do the right thing. Despite her allegations, Thomas' nomination was confirmed and it is that end that unequivocally justifies the rest of the film because no matter the viewer’s perspective on Thomas, or the alleged abuse, the harassment becomes a sub-plot to a tale about a young heroine fighting to change her world.

 

None of Hill’s interviews or speech snippets that are recorded in the film really address the question, why? Why did Hill remain silent for years before finally making her allegations? Why didn’t she press criminal charges? The viewer is left to speculate on her underlying motivations. But does the answer really matter? Does that truth undercut the power?

 

 

The 1991 society that formed the backdrop of the hearings is almost unrecognizable now. The change and the freedom of present-day is built on that former one, so does it really matter why Anita spoke out? The fact that she garnered national attention and worldwide support, women coming forward to commiserate with or applaud her, men thanking her for making the workplace a better environment for their daughters or wives, is the real point. That change is the focus of the film and nullifies the “why” question.

 

The hearing lasted mere hours, the subsequent conversation more than two decades, which is why much of the documentary is about Hill’s life after the hearing, introducing her students with whom she discusses her experience so they can go on to shape the world into a different, better way, and shows her interacting with young girls who are now empowered to recognize abuse and report it.

 

Although Anita is filmed in a single-lens amateurish fashion, including scenes filmed by a camera-person riding shotgun in the car with Hill, it is probably intended to make the viewer identify with Hill, feel like they are right there, accompanying her on the journey to becoming one of the most prolific non-entertainer, non-politician activists of this generation.

 

Author Bio:

Karen Wright is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.

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