New York Film Festival Review: “The Rape of Recy Taylor” (2017) ★★★★

Every time I watch a documentary film like “The Rape of Recy Taylor” I keep asking myself the same question – why on earth we did nothing to prevent racial discrimination and racial crimes back in the past when it had been such an important matter? For that same reason, the same problem has not gone away. Except, now there is a law aimed to prevent these crimes from happening again. The existence of the law does not mean the crimes will not happen, just that they will take place not as frequent as before. But, have you considered what will happen if the law was lifted up and people were allowed to do whatever they wanted? I believe, there is a big chance that people will go backward and continue doing what has been done to Recy Tayor. Yet, the scale might be completely different.

Alabama, September 3, 1944. Recy Taylor was on her way back from the church with her friend Fannie Daniel and her teenage son. A car stopped by. The US Army Private Herbert Lovett and his six friends walked out of it – all of them carrying guns. They forced Taylor into the car. Later the same night, Recy Taylor was gang-raped by those six white men. She found the strength to report the crime to the police. None of the men ever confessed to having done what they had been accused of. The justice was not served and all the men – white and privileged – were freed to go home without any charges.

This is the story of Recy Taylor – a courageous black woman who spoke up without hesitation, identifying her rapists and fighting back for her dignity. In the times when she lived, her bold and unprecedented move could have caused her life.

Written and directed by Nancy Buirski, “The Rape of Recy Taylor” examines not only the aftermath of the crime that took place in Alabama over half a century ago, but on a larger scale, it talks about the struggles of black women in their efforts to make their voices heard when the police didn’t do much to uncover the truth, and the justice was seemingly a privilege the black community could never dream to afford. Of course, Buirski’s film is about many other victims, like Taylor, who were willing to speak up and continue their battle for justice.

In conclusion, Buirski’s documentary is a sad reminder to all of us that no matter how much we try, certain things will remain unchanged. Even now, in the 21st century, many might succeed in their claims against people who have committed crimes, including rape, while in other parts of the world, women still do not even have the right to voice their disagreements with the system of justice. Will the story of Recy Taylor help to improve the society? I would say – yes, of course. But my question is, when did this step toward positive changes happen? Was it yesterday, or perhaps today? Because if it is today, then we are, I am afraid, too late to hope for our future, as we did nothing in the past to learn from the mistakes we made.


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