Monday, May 12, 2014

Anita (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Frieda Lee Mock (Wrestling with Angels) starts her documentary on professor Anita Hill off with a bang, as she records Hill getting an unexpected call from Ginny Thomas, wife of Clarence Thomas, asking her to apologize after some twenty plus years. Ginny's voice, deceptively sweet and amiable, carries a scary threat underneath: "I was wondering if you might think about an apology to my husband. Have a wonderful day, Anita."

These first few minutes are as riveting as it gets, as tense as any DePalma thriller, and all the more disquieting for its sudden bluntness.

Things have never been the same for Anita Hill since she spoke out during  the nomination for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, alleging sexual harassment in 1991. Hill was Thomas' assistant during his years at the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission which handles cases of workplace discrimination. Thomas made several advances and was rebuffed. He then allegedly tried to engage Hill in lascivious talk detailing Thomas' prowess in the bedroom, his penis size and sex with animals with increasingly demeaning talk about Hill's breasts.

She grew humiliated and brought it to the attention of the committee with only the intent to raise a reservation and a complaint against Thomas' character. Hill did not pursue, nor was she interested in, any litigation.

At the time she was in Oklahoma, as far from Washington as the outer reaches of Space, with no thought of public drama. Hill watched herself on TV. But tension was rising by the second.

She was called into testify against Clarence Thomas who was in the process of being groomed for the Supreme Court.

Hill, like a re-interpretation from The Trial, was forced to rehash all of Thomas' lewd porno behavior from talk of cocks and coke bottles, from beasts to big breasts in the most degrading of dialogues.

She did not know what awaited her from one moment to the next.

Hill became the subject of demeaning jokes from "Saturday Night Live" onward.

Biden brought Hill to the stand only to withdraw later and call the case closed due to Thomas' deliberate racial manipulation of the hearings, equating the proceedings to a lynching.

 Clarence Thomas was sworn in at a vote of 52-48 and Hill was branded a pariah by a testosterone-twisted Washington.

"Anita" is engaging throughout and tense at others and will pull at your gut. The sight of Hill's family as they deliberately and sternly file in The Capitol behind Hill hits you square in the sternum.

A highlight that cannot be over stressed, is the bright tranquility  of Anita Hill herself who carries on with a great galvanism of energy, verve and modest charm. She emerges not as a bitter person but rather a wise joy, educating others through her post hearing odyssey.

Do not let your possible presumptions delude you. "Anita" is no sour grapes story, but rather because of its calm namesake, a lifting up to a mature and sensitive enlightenment.

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