The Rape of Recy Taylor

The Rape of Recy Taylor

read my full review: www.indiewire.com/2017/10/nyff-critics-academy-2017-new-documentaries-1201886458/2/

As the founder of Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Nancy Buirski has a penchant for nonfiction. Making the leap to directing can prove difficult with any subject matter, yet Buirski continues to profile groundbreaking race-related stories, first with “The Loving Story,” the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on interracial marriage, and now exposing the ignored account of sexual violence in “The Rape of Recy Taylor.” The documentary provides a disturbing retelling of the criminally-neglected 1944 case of 24-year-old African American sharecropper Recy Taylor, who was brutally raped on her walk back from church by a gang of six white men on a warm September night in rural Abbeville, Alabama. Her subsequent quest to seek justice in the face of a racist judicial establishment and an absentee police force was a bold demonstration of real-life courage in the face of apathy. Although the title of the film and certain images might trigger debate about the (un)necessity of displaying black bodies being used and abused on screen, mirroring the debacle earlier this year when white artist Dana Schulz’s “Open Casket,” a painting of Emmett Till at the Whitney Biennial, sparked a heated conversation on black death being a spectacle for the white gaze, spearheaded by fellow artist Hannah Black.

The documentary is much more nuanced and doubles as a heartfelt letter to the neglected labor of black women in times of struggle and resistance. With Tony-winning actress Cynthia Erivo providing voiceover of a younger Rosa Parks, who aided Taylor and her family in their fight during her tenure at the NAACP in the face of police intimidation, this humbly provocative film belongs in a #SayHerName film syllabus—a minuscule canon that deserves to grow alongside the movement for Black Lives. The combination of close-ups and interviews with Taylor’s younger brother and sister emphasize an intimate study of a horrifying story that helped lay the blueprint for the impending Civil Rights movement. The film serves as a reminder for us to believe survivors of sexual assault, to acknowledge black women’s historic and ongoing third class citizenship, and that in the face of colossal injustice, there is always power in numbers.

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