In her new documentary The Rape of Recy Taylor, director Nancy Buirski tells the story of one of the most harrowing events in the history of the American civil rights movement. Recounting the traumatic gang rape of a young black woman by six white men, the film follows the subsequent campaign after the authority refused to bring any charges against her rapists. The campaign which saw the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) send its chief rape investigator Rosa Parks, to rally support for the victim, triggered an unprecedented outcry for justice and against the racist system which absolved the accused of any wrong doing simply because they were white and their victim happened to be a woman of colour.
On September 3 of 1944, Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old sharecropper, was on her way home from church when she was kidnapped by a group of white men in a truck who then proceeded to brutally rape and then mutilate her. What happened after the rape went on to shock her family and anyone else who came across the story. Advised by the local police to keep quiet about what happened, Recy refused to do what she was told which resulted in a series of attacks on her and her immediate family.
Approaching the subject with a great deal of honesty and respect for the legacy of those who witnessed the events, director Nancy Buirski uses a series of interviews and archival footage, which in some instances have no relation to the event itself, to recreate to the best of her ability a sense of horror and injustice witnessed by the victim, who despite surviving the attack, remained mentally scarred by it for the rest of her existence. With a mournful and sombre score running through the narrative, Buirski also uses music as means to accentuate the horrific events.
Whilst the film should be commended for approaching an important event in the history of the Civil Rights Movement, it would have perhaps been more affecting if it had been done with less artifice and superfluous devices. Having said that, the film presents a genuinely moving account of one woman’s fight for justice, and of all the people who chose to believe her and fight by her side every step of the way.
Parallels can also be drawn between what happened then and the #MeToo movement which is slowly changing the way society thinks about believing victims first and foremost, whatever the circumstances. On the whole, The Rape of Recy Taylor can take pride in being both urgent and timely, even if it fails to keep you hooked from the get go.