Hot Docs review: Her Socialist Smile

John Gianvito's profile of deaf-blind author Helen Keller and her socialist politics feels urgent

HER SOCIALIST SMILE (John Gianvito, U.S.). 93 minutes. Rating: NNNN

At a time when a pandemic is putting a spotlight on “the social determinants of health,” director John Gianvito’s profile of deaf-blind author Helen Keller couldn’t feel more urgent.

Using on-screen text from Keller’s speeches and interviews, as well as voice-over narration by poet Carolyn Forché, this essayistic doc pieces together her evolving radical socialist politics, how her disability informed her views and the ways her politics intersected with and departed from mainstream socialist figures in America and Europe in the early 20th century.

Today, it can be hard to imagine the political weight socialism carried at that time, but, clearly inspired by his subject, Gianvito succeeds in creating a lively and vivid impression of the era’s political atmosphere with only limited elements. 

Available to stream from April 29 at 10 am here


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