Published Apr 22, 2013Sexual harassment in North America isn't exactly less prevalent than it is in other countries; it just takes on a less physical form more often.
Psychological sexual harassment is the specific topic of Anita Hill's gutsy testimony in 1991 at the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas. Freida Mock's film is a frank tribute to the young African-American lawyer who bravely became a Saturday Night Live punch line in order to bring awareness to verbal sexual intimidation in the workplace.
Twenty years after Anita Hill calmly and articulately fended off assaults on her character by a pack of old white men sitting in judgement—many of whom sniggered when she was asked to repeat nick names her former co-worker gave his penis—she revisits the case that gave rise to her unwanted notoriety.
Thanks to its salacious content, the hearing became a media circus, the ridiculousness of which was compounded when Thomas, who is also African-American, displayed the audacity (and the sleazy legal counsel) to play the race card.
So a case of a man in a position of power making sexually inappropriate comments to his young female subordinate is spun into a camouflage of whitey trying to keep a brother out of the Supreme Court. Those vile distraction tactics effectively derailed any serious consideration of Hill's well-supported complaints while the fallout on her personal and professional life ended up mutating her career path in unforeseen ways.
Anita doesn't skirt the hardships its bright and charismatic namesake faced, which ranged from taunting letters and public cat-calling to death threats and political manoeuvring to shut down the law program she taught at the University of Oklahoma, nor does it dwell in them; the tone Mock uses a heavy hand to shape – cue the music – is one of inspiration and triumph.
It's useful and engaging as a historical document and Ms. Hill's cause is as righteous as her wit and good humour is pleasant to spend time with but the film doesn't take the time to consider a wider spectrum of perspectives—even to refute them—thus limiting its utility as a conversation starter or source of information with more depth than a "Just Say No" ad. (AM Film)