Sexual harassment. That term is still quite an attention getter. Before Anita Hill spoke up during the nomination period of Clarence Thomas, sexual harassment was a much more difficult claim to make. The triggers pulled by the word “sexual” do not hide the thrust of such violations. It is about power, not sex. It is more than ironic that Anita Hill spoke about a man who would become – appointed for life – a Supreme Court Justice of the United States of America.
The film “Anita” employs a classic documentary tack. It’s a record, a recounting of an iconic marker in American history. As a perspective piece, it’s a deferential bow to Anita Hill. Who was this person before she beared the cross examination of a televised Senate hearing? How did she comport herself during a highly publicized example of the courage required to reveal sexual harassment? What is Anita Hill doing since that flashpoint in her life and in our culture?
Was Clarence Thomas guilty? First, the hearing was not a trial. Second, we will never know. Third, see “Anita” if you want to refresh your memory or expose yourself for the first time as to the character of the person who really took the heat. Anita Hill’s verisimilitude seems impeccable. The Clarence Thomas denials seem much more peckable, but the film isn’t really about Clarence Thomas.
In 1991, the proceedings did not shout Republicans vs. Democrats (imagine that). Rather it showcased a Senate panel of all White men against a Black woman. It helped that she was a lawyer and a teacher who could bring balance to a lopsided forum.
Documentaries these days – and to their credit – have injected creativity, dramatic tension, and other film making devices to enhance the movie going experience. “Anita” doesn’t travel this route. Nonetheless, while it may be an ordinary brand of cinematic journalism, it benefits well from the importance of the content and the refresh about a milestone that is easily lost in a never resting tsunami of news and non-news.