Oscar-contending documentary The Disappearance of Shere Hite will be making an appearance in cinemas in the U.K. and Ireland within weeks, courtesy of Dogwoof.
The London-based documentary film company has announced a January 12 launch date in those territories for Nicole Newnham’s film about the famed American sex researcher who rocketed to fame in the 1970s but then faced a tremendous backlash that essentially drove her into exile.
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“The Disappearance of Shere Hite remembers the feminist sex researcher, Shere Hite, whose findings rocked the establishment, presaged current conversations about gender and sexuality, and made her a target of the patriarchy,” notes a release from Dogwoof. “1976’s The Hite Report aimed to liberate women and demystify female pleasure and the orgasm by revealing private experiences of thousands of anonymous survey respondents… Digging into exclusive archives, as well as Hite’s personal journals and the original survey responses, filmmaker Nicole Newnham… transports viewers back to a time of great societal transformation around sexuality.”
Actress Dakota Johnson narrates writings of Hite in the film and serves as an executive producer of The Disappearance of Shere Hite. The documentary enjoys a “100% Fresh” critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
“I was 12 years old when I discovered The Hite Report in my mother’s nightstand drawer, sneaking it to read for myself, to learn about the world of female sexuality, a world that remained cloaked in shame and mystery for me as for so many others,” Newnham said in a statement. “The women who answered Shere’s survey were eye-opening to me in their diversity – across age, race, ability, sexual identity and experiences – and in their commonality. I realized young women today needed to be having these conversations. In our post-#metoo era, Shere Hite’s works illuminate the biases and taboos that go unsaid in our society and are dangerous to women. I hope that through re-discovering Shere Hite’s legacy we can reignite discussions among women about female pleasure and gender equality that for too long have been lost.”
The Disappearance of Shere Hite was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and made DOC NYC’s recent shortlist of the year’s best documentary films. It also earned a place in IDFA’s Best of Fests lineup, another prestigious honor reserved for the most outstanding nonfiction films of the year.
“It’s very gratifying,” Newnham said of those honors in an interview for Deadline’s Doc Talk podcast. “I feel that it speaks to the fact that — even though it’s a historical film at this point about the 70s and the 80s — we worked really hard to craft it so that it would be in conversation in a really urgent way with the cultural moment that we’re in.”
As the film explores, Hite worked as a model and appeared in television commercials to support her graduate education. She embraced her beauty, making no attempt to hide it under a frowsy academic guise.
“What’s so interesting to me is that at the time she did that, she suffered for it,” Newnham said in our interview at IDFA for the podcast. “She was really held up against this brutal double standard, which is a lot of what the film is about. ‘How can we take you seriously as a scientist or a researcher if you’re going to dress like that and act like that?’ And yet now I think in today’s generation, people are able to really embrace the kind of almost punk rock attitude of someone who’s just completely uncompromising and dresses exactly how they want and doesn’t feel like they have to hide femininity or the color pink — I feel like even Barbie was really in conversation with that too. I think today that’s really embraced and lauded in a way that it was maybe a little bit of an oddity and a liability for her in terms of her professional career at the time.”
The Disappearance of Shere Hite is directed by Nicole Newnham (Oscar nominated for Crip Camp, which she co-directed with Jim LeBrecht) and produced by Molly O’Brien, R.J. Cutler, Elise Pearlstein, Kimberley Ferdinando, Trevor Smith and Nicole Newnham. The film is a production from NBC News Studios, This Machine, Sony Pictures Television Nonfiction, and Teatime Pictures.
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