A radical leftist writer and activist, Dorothy Day was also a committed, practicing Catholic and co-founder of the Catholic Worker newspaper. Her bio embraces many apparent contradictions. She was divorced, had an abortion and bore a child out of wedlock, yet is being considered by the Vatican for sainthood. Claudia Larson became a filmmaker to tell Day’s story, and has ably compressed into 57 minutes Day’s extraordinary 83-year life, from setting up Depression-era soup kitchens and co-founding the newspaper to unionizing farm workers with Caesar Chavez and protesting the Vietnam War. Pic’s a good fit for PBS or cable.
Photographs and newsreel footage from the ’20s and ’30s accompany quotations from Day’s impassioned writings for Marxist periodicals. Activists from Daniel Berrigan to Dick Gregory bear witness to her intense dedication and calm conviction. Archival color footage shows her marching with migrant workers in California; photographs show her getting hauled away in a paddy wagon in Washington, D.C. Larson never discusses the Church’s changing positions toward Day, instead spending inordinate amounts of time with Day’s daughter, Tamar Hennessey. Still, even if the docu’s context is sometimes lopsided, the force of Day’s personality rings through