Freida Mock’s meticulous and ultimately encouraging documentary Anita revisits a bizarre episode in American history, the 1991 Senate nomination hearings of Supreme Court justice-to-be Clarence Thomas, and the testimony of attorney Anita Hill, who essentially claimed that Thomas belonged in prison for sexual harassment instead of on the country’s highest judiciary. The panel of white male lawmakers humiliated her and discredited her testimony in their rush to confirm Thomas, and the rest is history.
Years later, Hill, now a Brandeis University law prof, still has the courage of her convictions, plus the backing of a chorus of talking heads. However, the big question remains: Why did she wait nine years to blow the whistle on Thomas’ behavior, which took place in 1982 when he was chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and she was one of his staffers? She still hesitates on that point.
Rightwing pols tried their best to ruin Hill’s life after her front-page exposure, but in the long run she inspired a generation of women to stand up for their rights. Sexual harassment suddenly got major media attention and Hill became a leading voice on the issue of gender inequality. Documentarian Mock (Maya Lin: A Strong Vision) alternates footage of Hill’s testimony with present-day interviews in which Hill notes that harassment isn’t about sex, it’s about control and power. The struggle continues.