The Rape of Recy Taylor
A historically significant film chronicling racism and sexism in America, The Rape of Recy Taylor – written and directed by Nancy Buirski – is a fascinating and heartbreaking story of the fight for racial justice, told through the account of one woman’s tragic gang rape by a group of eight young men in 1940s Abbeville, Alabama, and the struggle that ensued amid attempts to conceal it.
Showing that sexual violence is a universal issue for women, the documentary focuses on the systematic raping of black women by white men in the South. The attitude of entitlement engendered by slavery – white plantation owners regularly used female slaves as unpaid prostitutes – lingered long after in a society in which African Americans had few rights. The feature also stresses that rape is a weapon, and in this case, it is a political weapon against black men, unable to protect their wives and daughters.
Eschewing propaganda, the film is very real – showing that whites and blacks in Abbeville were on good terms in some ways. But clearly the latter knew “their place”, and when 24-year-old wife and mother Recy Taylor was brutally assaulted, she was accused of being a prostitute while the perpetrators were protected. Although rape was legally a crime in the US, in this town the cover-up was intense.
Using the testimonies of living members of Taylor’s family and others, as well as “race films” – pictures made by black filmmakers for black audiences – vintage footage and home movies, the piece details the titular victim’s courageous and tireless battle to be heard through her collaboration with revolutionary Rosa Parks, leading to a nationwide movement championing her fight via efforts by the press, the NAACP and Martin Luther King.
Support by activist groups was conditional upon serving their cause, however, and when unable to indict Taylor’s attackers, they moved on. Although the victim eventually received a full apology for the crime from the town of Abbeville, the perpetrators were never legally punished.
Through evocative cinematography, moody, hazy visuals are combined with powerful clips such as that of a black woman in an ethereal white gown escaping in terror. A soundtrack of original blues music with some contemporary ballads creates atmospheric impact.
Stunningly composed, emotionally affecting and thought-provoking, The Rape of Recy Taylor provides a poignant revelation of racial history, revealing the suffering, soul and courageous strength of black women in America.
The Rape of Recy Taylor is released nationwide on 25th May 2018.
Watch the trailer for The Rape of Recy Taylor here: