This documentary sets the stage for the leftist and suffragette figure of Helen Keller, in a portrait that can be seen as a continuation or expansion of Gianvito’s work in his Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind (2007). Keller lost her hearing and vision as a child, which did not stop her from becoming a prolific writer, lecturer and activist. The film highlights important public appearances, such as her 1913 Out of the Dark speech.
For the past two decades, John Gianvito has been an important American documentarist, producing cinema with a strong political and activist dimension. In 2008, IndieLisboa programmed Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, an essay about spaces and monuments that reflect the inheritance of many names of American activism. One of those people is certainly Helen Keller, an extraordinary woman who, having become blind and deaf since the first months of her life, never stopped to make those around her see and listen more, through her writing, speeches and ideas. Her Socialist Smile is a film that puts at its centre her words and reflections, a sensorial experience of evocation (and provocation) of thought and stimulus to the senses. Gianvito tries to install in between the read and the listened word, but also in the details of nature, this strength that made Keller fight for peace, women’s rights, social justice and protection of the most vulnerable. After all, transforming socialism might start in a Keller-confessed wish: light in the eyes and minds of everyone. (Carlos Natálio)