Review: Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins


For Molly Ivins, there were two sides to the political spectrum, not the Left or the Right, but the Top to the Bottom.

The American Film Institute (AFI) is closing their 2019 Doc Fest this year with “Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins.” An acerbic political Texan who served up the stark naked truth with cutting, irreverent humor, the Ivins doc gets you laughing at the truth because, in all honesty, it is so crazy. Her first book on George Bush was titled “Shrub” and the second was called “Bushwacked.”

In the beginning, Molly’s autocratic father called her The Mole because she was always in her hole (room) reading all the time. She was an introvert. By age 12, she was 6-feet tall with a woman’s body. Because she was so smart, she was sent to a private school where she developed the dream to be a foreign correspondent, traveling to exotic places far away.

To adequately characterize her father, whom she nick-named The General, she told the story about a black guy she had invited over for swimming. When The General arrived home, he went raging on about the black man swimming in the pool.

HER: You are worse than Hitler.

HIM: And what was so bad about him?

She bucked the most formidable authority. Dan Rather says, “Molly had guts. Somebody had to stand up and look them in the eye and speak truth.”

After working for the New York Times, Molly eventually returned to Austin in 1970 to work for The Texas Observer, a liberal newspaper. Ronnie Dugger, founding editor, and later publisher, says about being a progressive in Texas: “To be a liberal was far worse than being a communist or child molester. Molly came with her own six-pack of beer for the interview and she brought her dog named Shit.”

Having grown up with Ann Richards, Texas’ 45th Governor, they were friends before Molly became a journalist. Ann knew Molly well and reports that “Molly’s not afraid of anybody and Molly doesn’t owe anybody anything. That makes her a very powerful force.”

This is a fun doc to watch and a model for journalistic honesty doused with enough humor and to make most sides laugh. It is being honored on June 23 as the closing feature at the American Film Institute’s 2019 Docs Film Festival in Washington, D.C.

Director: Janice Engel
Writers: Janice Engel and Monique Zavistovski
Featuring: Andy Ivins, Margo Johnston, Charles Kaiser, Paul Krugman, Anne Lamott, Linda Jann Lewis,Myra MacPherson, Rachel Maddow, Marty Maley, Sara Ivins Maley, Dave McNeely, Betsy Moon, Muffie Moroney, Victor Navasky, Kaye Northcott, Terry O’Rourke, Dan Rather Dan Rather, Ann Richards, Cecile Richards, Anne Siefert, Sara Speights, Ellen Sweets, Forrest Wilder, and Anthony Zurcher
Producers: Leslie Berriman, Katy Drake Bettner, James Egan, Rhonda Eiffe, Janice Engel, Amber Howell, Lisa Kaufman, Mark Kaufman, Nion McEvoy, Nancy Stephens and Carlisle Vandervoort
Cinematography: Kristy Tully
Editing: Monique Zavistovski
Music Department: Ian Herbert

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