‘Raise Hell’ delves into the life of brilliant, outspoken rabble-rouser, Molly Ivins

“People who couldn’t stand her loved to read her ‘cause she made you laugh.”

By Laura RiceMarch 28, 2022 10:01 am, , ,

Molly Ivins is a Texas icon. She was a “First Amendment warrior, she spoke truth to power, gave voice to those that didn’t have one,” says filmmaker Janice Engel. She covers it all in her documentary, “Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins.”

Engel says she was “knocked out” by what she learned about Ivins during her research.

“I’ve been climbing a mountain called ‘Molly’ for six-plus years,” Engel says.

What especially stood out was how Ivins promoted civic engagement through her work.

“Especially in school and getting education,” Engel says. “I think her voice … may be more relevant now than even when she was alive.”

Ivins balanced humor with lacerating criticism of Texas politicians.

“She went for the jugular of politicians doing stupid things, or saying stupid things, common-sense things,” Engel says.

But her humor made that criticism accessible to readers. More than that, she says Ivins’ humor is part of a larger Texas storytelling tradition.

“She distilled it down in such a clever way, because people who couldn’t stand her loved to read her ‘cause she made you laugh,” Engel says.

Today’s equivalent of Ivins would be a combination of America’s most well-known liberal commentators and satirists like Rachel Maddow, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee and Stephen Colbert, Engel says.

“But she was one person doing two columns per week,” Engel says. “She read like five or six newspapers every morning. She was a serious political wonk and brilliant.”

Engel says Ivins would give speeches, for free, once a month for the American Civil Liberties Union. She did this to promote civic engagement, particularly in rural areas. Even when she was dying of cancer, she would record the speeches in her home.

“Her thing was about voting, her thing was about educating and about standing up for civil liberties so everybody has their rights,” Engel says.

“Raise Hell” opens in Texas Aug. 29, and nationwide on Aug. 30.

This story originally aired on Aug. 29, 2019.

Written by Caroline Covington.