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The late journalist and media commentator Molly Ivins, an outspoken liberal from Texas, has an illustrious reputation among connoisseurs of political writing of the late 20th century, but is not so well known outside the US. This affectionate but thankfully not hagiographic documentary, directed by Janice Engel, offers a handy preçis of her biography, character and impact.
It’s told partly through fresh interviews with admirers (including the doyenne of progressive journalism, Rachel Maddow, as well as Dan Rather and Paul Krugman) and Ivins’ friends and family. But above all the film relies on a smoothly edited melange of archive footage that recorded Ivins’ killer comic timing in interviews on various public stages, as well as her incisive intelligence and irreverence, captured mostly on shoddy video with C-SPAN blazoned in the corners. But neither age nor compression artefacts can wither her immortal charisma.
Ivins was born into a high-Wasp clan but rebelled against her parents’ expectations that she do something genteel, instead becoming a civil rights supporter and then a reporter. While working at a Minnesota paper during the late 60s she was proud to have wound up the police so much with her reporting that they named their mascot pig after her. Then came a stint at the New York Times where she never quite suited the buttoned-down culture, given her tendency to walk around barefoot and bring her dog, whom she named Shit, to work with her.
The film implies she was sacked for describing a mass chicken slaughter in the midwest as a “gang pluck”, a phrase that didn’t make it into print but still raised the ire of the editor in chief. (She said later she only used it to make the copy editors laugh.) Eventually she returned to Texas and became a syndicated columnist and author of several books on politics that gave her a national reputation.
Given that it’s 13 years since Ivins died, it’s puzzling why this film is coming out now, but it’s never not a good time to celebrate a woman with an outsized, big-boned talent, a heroine for the left even if she didn’t always adhere to the party line. Heaven knows we need all the plain-speaking, fearless heroines we can get right now.
• Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins is in cinemas and on digital platforms from 23 October.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins review – memorial to a liberal legend | Film