SIFF Double Feature – Anita / Out of Print

SIFF Double Feature – Anita / Out of Print

Anita PosterAnita: Directed by Freida Lee Mock and playing at the Seattle International Film Festival, Anita tells the story of Anita Hill, a law professor best known for her testimony during the 1991 confirmation hearing of Clarence Thomas for the United States Supreme Court. She stated he had repeatedly sexually harassed her while she worked for him on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and that shelike many womenchose to grit her teeth and find a better job rather than report it. (For the young people out there, sexual harassment in the workplace was commonplace in the old days and hard to stop. Go watch some Mad Men for examples. Because it never happens now. Mmmhmm.)

When asked to testify at the congressional hearings, Hill chose to tell her story and was vilified in the process. Portrayed as a scorned woman, a liar, and a political opportunist, she stuck to her story and drove the discussion of harassment in the media. Thomas denied the allegations and stated that he was being punished for being an upitty Black man, changing the discussion from one of sex to race. Thrust negatively into the spotlight, Hill chose to focus on the positive aspects of having a public platform, rather than allowing the situation to destroy her life. In spite of the efforts to derail her career, she kept on teaching and speaking out about her experiences of speaking truth to power.

This movie is pretty interesting, but it is not an investigative documentary about Hill’s role in the Thomas hearings. Which is cool, but if that’s what you are expecting, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s more of an appreciation piece about Hill and her ability to take an extremely stressful situation and handle it with grace and dignity. The strongest part of the film is the first two-thirds, where it deals with the hearing and its immediate aftermath; it starts to fall apart during the “everybody but Mrs. Thomas loves Anita” section. Hill’s demeanor and intelligence communicate how worthy she is of all the adulation; actually showing it is a little unnecessary. The facts of the case are fascinating, as are her assessments of where things went wrong. She was a young woman who decided to speak out regarding an abuse of power and was completely unaware of the circus of congressional mismanagement that would greet her. For anyone even vaguely interested in the confirmation process or equity in the workplace, this is a should-see. For anyone needing a reminder of what it means to move forward from adversity, this is a must-see.

Anita plays at the Harvard Exit on May 25th and Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center on May 26th.

Final Grade: B+ 

Out of Print PosterOut of Print: Director Vivienne Roumani is interested in the book as both object and the information contained within the object, and gives the audience an overview of the history and importance of the written word. Writing was developed as an administrative tool to keep track of populaces and polices before it became a vehicle for personal expression. After moving from the scroll to the codex, the invention of movable type was the next major development in technologyallowing easy reproduction and the ability to disseminate information quickly. No real new innovations occurred until the electronic revolution, where e-books and other electronic devices presented other, slightly more controversial, ways for people to access information. The movie explores issues with electronic publishing, focusing on the readers and content providers, and does an okay job with it. It’s a fairly complex issue, and Roumani touches lightly on many factors, including issues with data storage, copyright protection, publisher panic, self-publishing, author livelihood protection, and threats to bookstores and libraries. is specifically mentioned by name (full disclosure: my husband works for Amazon), and there are interviews with Jeff Bezos extolling Amazon’s abilities to offer greater accessibility, as well as Scott Turow complaining that Amazon’s original pricing of $9.99 for new releases artificially incentivized people to switch to e-books.

The film then changes gears to talk about how the Internet affects the ways young people read and analyze information. This is moderately interesting, but is a complete change in subject matter, and is a bit jarring. Out of Print is only 55 minutes long, which is not much time to cover so much ground, and it suffers because of it. I found myself wanting to go back to the earlier subject matter and really get into the meat of it, but instead had to reluctantly switch gears. And therein lies the problem: this film is really two very short documentaries that do not serve either subject well. The topic is still interesting, but in the end, the execution is not satisfying. It’s worth seeing; just don’t expect more than a taste to whet your palate.

Out of Print is playing at the Harvard Exit on May 20th and 21st.

Final Grade: C+

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