The Rape of Recy Taylor review – vital story of a woman who fought back | Film

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This harrowing and very instructive documentary from Nancy Buirski is about the remarkable courage of Recy Taylor, a young black woman in Abbeville, Alabama, in the United States. After she was raped on her way home from church by six white teenage boys in 1944, Taylor refused to stay silent like all the other victims of this very commonplace crime.

With the help of her community, the case was taken up by the NAACP and no less a person than Rosa Parks spearheaded the campaign. Even under pressure, the state’s legal authorities never made the smallest genuine attempt to collar the suspects, who were left to go free, and in some instances they had distinguished war records in Korea and Vietnam. But the case itself was part of the galvanising process that energised the civil rights movement in postwar America.

In 2011, the state of Alabama finally offered Taylor an “apology” – rather British in its formality and futility – for its failure to convict her assailants. Taylor died in December last year at the age of 97, evidently too frail to be interviewed on camera, but Buirski speaks to many of her surviving family, and indeed many of her attackers’ surviving family members. This gives a larger, tragic context to the movie, without blunting its anger. Buirski’s vigorous and wide-ranging film draws on the various modes of expression and protest that the Recy Taylor case brought into focus: the black-oriented press and the “race film” industry targeted at black audiences.

If this story was a Hollywood movie, the person helping Taylor would probably have to be a decent-minded white man, played by Tom Hanks or Tommy Lee Jones, or a white woman, played by Susan Sarandon or Kathy Bates. In real life, she was helped by Parks, another black woman. If it is to be turned into a feature film, some storytelling assumptions will have to be overturned.

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Source: The Guardian
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