Wednesday, 25 June 2014

REVIEW - ANITA (FREIDA LEE MOCK)


Extraordinary events seen through the extraordinary filter that history has attributed to them, in an ordinary documentary. It's impressive how much a good story and some good intentions can achieve, and it's inconceivable to consider Anita Hill's story told truthfully without such noble intentions. Would that Freida Lee Mock had good filmmaking instincts, and she might have spoken these truths to a much greater power. Hill's subpoenaed appearance before a senate hearing, which has morphed into a trial of her character even before it has begun, provides ample material for a reflection on American attitudes toward gender and race in the early 1990s, and to the public notion of the invalidity of many claims of sexual assault and harassment, and for an examination of those same issues today. The proceedings are riveting in their content and fascinating in their context, both contemporarily and with 23 years' hindsight. Yet Mock strains to emphasise points that are far less strenuously yet far more successfully communicated by this footage, and she bulks up the back end of her film with her own, unnecessary defence of Hill's character. The nature of her public struggle to be heard and believed is evidence enough as to her integrity. The film nevertheless has considerable value as an item of uplift and of inspiration, even if it chooses not to elaborate upon the problems which Hill is helping to provide solutions for. To accompany Mock's portrait of her protagonist, further probing into the personae of her interrogators, or into the culture that influenced their opinions then (and the opinions of so many even now) would have permitted Anita to be as insightful a film as it is inspirational.