SXSW Film Festival Review: Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins (USA, 2019) examines the politics behind this unsinkable Molly

The Titanic had the Unsinkable Molly Brown. Texas meanwhile, had the unstoppable Molly Ivins. This tall, flame-haired woman was an outspoken, political commentator with a razor-sharp wit. Raise Hell is a documentary that covers every inch of this larger-than-life character.

This film is the first documentary to be made about this formidable subject. It’s hard to see why, especially when we learn about her colourful nature. She was six feet tall at the age of 12 and she would proudly tell people she drove a pick-up truck, and loved hunting and cussing. She could also drink men under the table and was a proud liberal.

Ivins skewered people from both sides of American politics. She dubbed George W. Bush, “Shrub” and wrote an entire book about him. Both politicians and pundits would hold on her every word. At the height of her popularity, she would contribute to 400 newspapers. Watching her clever brand of humour in the archive footage here, it’s easy to see how she entertained and educated so many people. Consider it this way: Ivins was so smart, it was like she ate politicians for breakfast.

Janice Engel writes and directs this documentary. Her background is in television documentaries and it is clear that she has meticulously-researched the subject. The result is a film that examines Ivins’s life and work in detail. Ivins’s family and friends are interviewed, as well as other people who knew her. This insider’s commentary helps fashion a rich and complex portrait about an impressive woman who sadly passed away in 2007. Audiences will feel empowered and inspired by this warrior for free speech.

Raise Hell is a look at the life, ambitions and legacy of this bold raconteur. This informative documentary is also a reminder about how much this trailblazer is missed. Could you imagine her thoughts on President Trump? Ivins contributed so much to American civics, she gives a whole new meaning to the words, “We the people…”


Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins plays as part of the SXSW Film Festival, which runs from 8 to 16 March. For more information and tickets head HERE.


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