Coming to theatres today, Friday, December 15:
THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR
New York Film Festival, Chicago, Film Columbia, Woodstock, Double Exposure,
An exploration of a 1944 case of sexual assault against an African-American woman in Alabama.
On September 3, 1944 in Abbeville AL, Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old African American sharecropper, wife, and mother, was abducted at gunpoint by a group of six young white men and raped. Though sadly not unique in experiencing this kind of violence, Taylor defied convention by speaking out against her assailants, demanding justice. As Buirski reveals in her thoughtful if sometimes clunky recounting of the case, she has yet to receive proper satisfaction, underlining the persistent issues faced by both people of color and women in the justice system that continue to the present day. Despite the confession of one of the men who raped her – the others having either denied involvement or claimed Taylor was a willing prostitute – none was ever arrested or tried for the crime. While Taylor is still alive, while her rapists are not, she only appears in the film very briefly, largely leaving the telling of her story to her brother, sister, and Yale professor Crystal Feimster, among others. While their talking heads interviews offer compelling, sobering viewpoints, Buirski has a tendency to too-often employ music and visual cutaways that threaten to distract the viewer from their words. Facing the challenge of not having much footage from the time, the filmmaker thankfully opts not to film re-enactments, and instead intriguingly makes use of clips from race films and some archival material. These – far more successful than the pseudo-impressionistic, shaky images of woods and graves that are unfortunately presented at times – offer modes of representation in contrast to white mainstream sources that willfully omitted such stories from the “official” record.