0 Flares 0 Flares ×

motw logo 1-35Using the horrific 1944 gang rape of a black woman by white men as a jumping-off point to examine systemic issues of race, class, and power in the United States, Nancy Buirski’s documentary “The Rape of Recy Taylor” is stirring and powerful. Like many other 2017 films, including “Detroit,” “Mudbound,” “Strong Island,” and more, “Recy Taylor” makes it abundantly clear that the complicated history and politics of race and gender are more relevant — and frustrating — than ever. Continue reading…

recy taylor posterBuirski tells Recy’s story through a mix of interviews with her friends and family members and archival footage from black films. Viewers hear how the upstanding, churchgoing Recy — a 24-year-old Alabama wife and mother — was abducted by a car full of young white men who proceeded to rape her, one after the other. Unlike many victims of her era, Recy dared to speak up and name her attackers, but they were never indicted for or punished for their crime.

Why? Because it happened in the Jim Crow South in the 1940s, she was a black woman, and they were white men. As several experts make clear in their own interviews, the power dynamic of that time and place was such that those circumstances alone were more than enough justification — in the rapists’ eyes — for them to do whatever they wanted with and to her. They didn’t see Recy as a wife, a mother, or even a person. They didn’t see her at all.

Someone who did see her was Rosa Parks (yes, that Rosa Parks), who was working as the NAACP’s chief rape investigator at the time and was sent to support Recy and bolster her calls for justice. Her role and Recy’s own bravery in the face of unshakable prejudice show the importance of women — especially women of color — standing up and speaking out, both then and now. It will leave you heartbroken and outraged, but this film will also fire you up to fight in solidarity with these trailblazing women.– Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW Comments:

Sheila Roberts: With sexual assault stories dominating our headlines daily, “The Rape of Recy Taylor” is as timely now as it was in 1944 when Taylor summoned up extraordinary courage to speak out about her rape and demand justice from a legal system that betrayed women of color. In an era when it was dangerous to do so, the black press brought her story to national prominence and was instrumental in getting the white press to report on it. Using archival footage and eyewitness accounts, filmmaker Nancy Buirski reveals how one black woman’s refusal to accept an egregious miscarriage of justice influenced the future of the Civil Rights Movement and continues to resonate today. This inspiring documentary is dedicated to the countless women whose voices have not been heard.

MaryAnn Johanson: The ways in which the stories about black women in America are marginalized, ignored, and forgotten are legion. This documentary remedies that in one particular case, that of Recy Taylor, whose name should be legendary in American discourse as a civil-rights pioneer for daring to use the legal system to push back at her white rapists. But it also highlights how Rosa Parks has been diminished in American public discourse, by telling more of her story, as a campaigner for black Americans to be seen as equal under the law long before the Birmingham bus event. This is an astonishing film, not least because it tells a story that we should all already be so familar with that it feels epic.

Nikki Baughan: Weaving together archive footage and contemporary talking heads, filmmaker Nancy Buirski creates a desperately moving portrait of the fight against injustice. Despite having occurred over 50 years ago, the rape of African American Recy Taylor by seven white men who ambushed her as she walked home from church vibrates with vivid anger and contemporary resonance. While Recy’s story may originate in violence, her response is nothing short of inspirational. Instead of cowering, Recy became determined to bring her attackers to justice. Teaming with Rosa Parks, she became one of legions of black women whose refusal to stay silent helped drive the civil rights movement.

Esther Iverem: Nancy Buirksi’s unflinching documentary, “The Rape of Recy Taylor” is timely as the United States faces a barrage of sexual harassment, assault and rape cases implicating mostly White men in positions of power. If it has not occurred to commentators, this chilling true story might remind them that today’s U.S.—with such embedded attitudes toward the availability of women’s bodies—evolved from centuries of the systematic, legal rape of Black women and girls.

Cate Marquis: A moving, insightful documentary that combines a personal story of a brutal rape of a black woman in 1944 Alabama with an examination of the role women played in the Civil Rights movement. Read full review.

Liz Whittemore: Sometimes a documentary teaches you more than you ever expected. Sometimes a doc is so relevant to the present it’s shocking. Nancy Buirski’s, THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR, caught me by surprise from the very beginning. I learned not much has really changed in the past 80 years when it comes to everything I hold dear with respect to racism and sexism. Read full review,

Jennifer Merin — Filmmaker Nancy Buirski’s documentary uses archival footage and eyewitness interviews to focus on the heinous crime of rape, reflecting the prevalent racism and demeaning attitude towards women, and especially towards women of color, in the South during the 1940s. This important and well-researched documentary tells a story long waiting to be told and resonates with current revelations of sexual harassment and abuse.


Title: The Rape of Recy Taylor

Directors: Nancy Buirski

Release Date: December 15, 2017

Running Time: 91 minutes

Language: English

Screenwriter: Nancy Buirski

Production Company: Augusta Films


Official Website

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Nikki Baughan, Anne Brodie, Betsy Bozdech, Cynthia Fuchs, Pam Grady, Leba Hertz, Esther Iverem, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sheila Roberts, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna, Jeanne Wolf

Previous #MOTW Selections

Other Movies Opening This Week

Written by Betsy Bozdech, edited by Jennifer Merin

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 0 Flares ×

Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).