HotDocs13: Anita (2013)

In 1991, Professor Anita Hill brought accusations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas. Hill had worked for Thomas as an assistant at the ENEO, where Thomas had repeatedly harassed Hill with lewd comments, aggressive innuendo, and unwanted sexual advances. Hill was subpoenaed by a senate commission and brought to D.C. to give testimony on her allegations. The Senate committee was comprised of entirely white men—many popular contemporary political figures sat on it, including Vice President Joe Biden. Hill’s allegations, as a black woman, were ultimately dismissed because Thomas, a black man, laid charges of racial prejudice against the board and the committee was afraid to seem racist. Thomas's  appointment to the Supreme Court went ahead as planned.

But Hill’s battle was no loss. Her testimony brought sexual harassment to the forefront of American public thought; it gave the next generation of women courage to confront and hopefully conquer harassment in the workplace. The new documentary Anita, by Oscar-winning documentarian Frieda Mock, brings Professor Hill’s story to the big screen and presents her as the catalytic protagonist in the saga of addressing workplace sexual harassment. Mostly comprised of Senate Committee footage from the 1991 hearing, Anita is a personal documentary about a universal struggle. It tells Hill's story in her own words, and unambiguously paints her as a champion of civil rights. The documentary compares the climate of Hill’s struggles in 1991 with the world today and the shows the effects her testimony has made on younger women who grew up in the intervening 20 years.

Anita is an important documentary about an often-overlooked social issue. Enlightening for anyone unclear about the issue of sexual harassment, the film's relevance for  women is obvious. However, it is also a must-see for men who often fail to understand women’s struggles with sexual harassment and find it difficult to imagine harassment in their own contexts. On this matter, you couldn’t ask for a better teacher on the subject than Professor Hill.

Anita: Speaking Truth to Power (2013, USA)

Directed by Frieda Mock.

8 out of 10