Raise Hell, a new documentary about the great Texas columnist, sends an urgent message from the Bush years to a nation under Trump with sharp humour
After Pat Buchanan delivered an infamous speech at the 1992 Republican convention, couching the struggle with Democrats in terms of a cultural war, columnist Molly Ivins wrote that it probably sounded better in the original German. She did not live to cover a Donald Trump rally.
Ivins died of cancer in 2007, at the age of 62. Now, she is the subject of a documentary, Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins, which is making its way around the festival circuit after showing at Sundance and SXSW.
The film describes a remarkable life: born into Houston oil money, educated at Smith in Massachusetts, a hard-charging reporter too hard-charging for the New York Times, a champion of the people in Texas, a guardian of human rights with the American Civil Liberties Union, a syndicated columnist and bestselling author, a troubled soul, a brilliant wit who coined a withering nickname for former president George W Bush: Shrub.
Director Janice Engel does not mention Bushs successor-but-one. But she does include shots of liberal dissent of today: the Womens March, March for our Lives. This, she says, is because she did not want he who shall not be named anywhere near my film.
But I wanted specifically to show Mollys amazing prescience. The things she wrote, 15, 20, 30 years ago are happening right now. Molly was a student of history. These things dont go away and people dont pay attention, but she certainly did.
Its amazing. I sometimes think shes more relevant now than when she was delivering her message. Right now, across the world, democracy is in crisis.
From her home in Austin, Ivins kept note of the Republicans hard-right turn, of the consequent Texification of US politics, on the machinations of those with power and the effects on those without it, on the beginnings of the great polarisation which has reached such depths today.
It all culminated with Bushs assault on civil liberties in the name of dubious security, in the years after 9/11. Ivins final book, Bill of Wrongs, written like others with Lou DuBose, was a clarion call against suppression of protest and abuse of power that now might even seem quaint.
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