THE BACK STORY: New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson not only appears in Freida Mock’s new documentary about the 1991 Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas showdown “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power,” but she also took part in two post-screening Q&A’s Saturday at the Film Society at Lincoln Center.
The historic subject matter is one that Abramson spent years immersed in, having coauthored with Jane Mayer “Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas.” Reached by phone Monday, Abramson said she agreed to appear in the 75-minute film due to Mock’s reputable filmmaking (she won an Oscar for “Maya Lin”) and the fact that so much of the documentary centers on the hearings, as well as the meaning and reactions to them. “And the portrayal of Anita Hill as a truthful person is consistent with what Jane and I found after three years of meticulous investigative reporting,” Abramson said. “Jane and I both view our work on the book ‘Strange Justice’ as certainly among the best pieces of work either of us has ever done. It’s definitely the best piece of work we’ve done together.”
That said, Hill was “a reluctant source,” according to Abramson. “It took a lot of convincing to convince her back in the early 1990s to be interviewed for the book.…I think she was wary of the press and also of the major political institutions in Washington.”
As for Saturday’s moviegoers, Abramson said the New York crowd’s response was very much like the one at the Sundance Film Festival last year, in that “it was positive and people still have very strong reactions to those hearings and issued that they revolved around.”
Sizing up the nation’s progress is a bit more abstract. “It’s hard to measure improvement. I think that the country has a better understanding of the issue of sexual harassment as a result of both the hearings, some of the books written about them and this film,” Abramson said.