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'Anita' examines politics of sex, race and power

A new documentary, “Anita Hill: Speaking Truth to Power,” will have its Minnesota premier Feb. 11 at Twin Bluff Middle School.

By Ruth Nerhaugen, contributor

Anita Hill. Clarence Thomas.

If the names ring a bell but the details are elusive, set aside time on Feb. 11 to watch “Anita Hill: Speaking Truth to Power.”

The film tells the story of the woman who ignited a political firestorm about sexual misconduct and power in the workplace.

During televised U.S. Senate confirmation hearings, Hill provided graphic testimony about repeated acts of sexual harassment she endured while working with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

Though the hearings took place 23 years ago, Hill’s testimony still resonates with those who would stand up for equality and justice, according to local project Chairman Ann-Marie Rose.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock created the documentary, which will be shown in Minnesota for the first time at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11 in the Twin Bluff Middle School Auditorium.

The American Association of University Women, Red Wing Area Chapter and several other local sponsors arranged the screening to celebrate Hill’s courage and acknowledge her status as an empowering figure for both women and men.

Hill was a bookish law professor from Oklahoma working with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Thomas was her boss.

According to one reviewer describing what took place in the fall of 1991, “the cool and calm Ms. Hill sat in front of a group of U.S. senators, all white and all middle aged, and was grilled about her work experience.”

She told her story in a clear, unwavering voice, “and instantly became a celebrated, hated, venerated and divisive figure,” a press release from the filmmaker stated. “Against a backdrop of sex, politics and race, ‘Anita’ reveals the intimate story of a woman who spoke truth to power.”

In an interview published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Hill said she had been approached by several filmmakers about telling her story, but hesitated until she came to realize that “the issues are still resonant.”

Questions Hill asked herself need answers, according to the local sponsors: “How do we create a world where (harassment) doesn’t happen? What do we do to change our culture, to change our environment so this is not an accepted, rewarded behavior?”

Hill is now a professor and administrator at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, teaching classes on social justice and legal history. Much of her work addresses issues of equality that remain unresolved for many.

“I am very hopeful. I know that people can change,” she told the Sun-Times. “I know we can do better.”

In the 77-minute documentary, which has adult content, Hill speaks openly and intimately for the first time about the experiences that led her to testify before the Senate — and the obstacles she faced in simply telling the truth. The film provides a rare glimpse into her private life and the friends and family who stayed by her side, and reveals what has happened to her life and work in the years since.

The documentary was created by Freida Mock, a filmmaker, director, screenwriter and producer who founded the American Film Foundation with Terry Sanders.

She has received an Academy Award and five additional Oscar nominations, plus two prime-time Emmy Awards and three additional nominations for projects on topics ranging from politics and history to art and biographies.

Her Academy Award film was “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision,” about the woman who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Another recent project was “Enterprising Women,” a documentary celebrating centuries of entrepreneurial women in America.

The screening of “Anita Hill: Speaking Truth to Power” is free and open to everyone, but tickets are required.

Project partners with AAUW are the Red Wing League of Women Voters, Red Wing Community Education, Red Wing Human Rights Commission, HOPE Coalition, Goodhue County Historical Society, Red Wing Public Library and Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical.

Moderator will be Kris Kvols, executive director of HOPE Coalition, a nonprofit agency that provides services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and homelessness in Goodhue County. She will lead discussion following the film. HOPE Coalition and nother sponsors also will have resource tables at the school.

Free tickets to “Anita” are available at Red Wing Public Library. Because seating at Twin Bluff is limited, people who pick up tickets are asked to commit to attending or to return those tickets to the library.

More information is available from Rose at annmarie@husomandrose.com.

If you go…

What: “Anita Hill: Speaking Truth to Power”

Who: AAUW-Red Wing and other local organizations

When: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11

Where: Twin Bluff Middle School Auditorium

How much: Free, but tickets required

More info: annmarie@husomandrose.com

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