Her Socialist Smile

Her Socialist Smile

John Gianvito / 2020 / 93 minutes / NR

Though her life generated voluminous literature, most people ignore the fact that iconic deaf-blind author Helen Keller (1880–1968) was one of the most passionate socialist advocates of her time. Continuing his work of patient and insightful political filmmaking, director John Gianvito (Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind) resurrects Keller’s radical views, which have been largely suppressed or sanitized over the years. In Her Socialist Smile, he researches how, beginning in her early 30s, the pioneer leftist thinker fervently and eloquently spoke out on behalf of many progressive causes, from the rights of women and the disabled, to international socialism and world peace. Gianvito combines onscreen text taken from her most memorable public appearances, recorded voiceover by politically engaged poet Carolyn Forché, and quiet images of nature, creating another unique blend of activism, historical analysis and poetry. Reminding us that leftist struggles are inseparable from disability advocacy, Keller’s words remain remarkably pertinent today.

  • "A fascinating and challenging exploration of Keller’s political thought."

    — Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
  • "Fascinating — a portrait of a woman who has little to lose and is willing to give her all for what she believes in — and an important addition to Keller’s legacy."

    — Alissa Wilkinson, Vox
  • "Helen Keller emerges from Her Socialist Smile to appear even more inspiring, relevant, and righteous than in the official narrative."

    — Mark Asch, The Film Stage
  • "Resuscitates Helen Keller’s legacy from a source of vague inspirational quotes for self-help books and Instagram posts to a different kind of heroism."

    — Bedatri D. Choudhury, Hyperallergic
  • "Unlike traditional documentaries, Her Socialist Smile doesn't lull one into passivity; it encourages (and even flat-out demands) active viewer engagement."

    — Paul Attard, In Review Online
  • "Striking. Gianvito delves into artistic territory largely unfamiliar to the conventional biopic."

    — Miguel Savransky, Jacobin

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