At the age of 85, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has developed a lengthy legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon. But the unique personal journey of her rise to the nation's highest court and her exceptional life and career has been largely unknown, even to some of her biggest fans - until now.
Review by Louise Keller:
Her tireless work advocating women's rights and gender equality may have put her on the map, but there is much more to 85 year-old US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg - as this fascinating and inspiring documentary reveals. This petite woman with a giant mind is reassuringly polite, calm and articulate. Anger ('a useless emotion') is not part of her arsenal. Surprisingly, she has become a pop culture icon; we watch her chuckling as she watches herself being parodied on Saturday Night Live. While Julie Cohen and Betsy West's doco canvasses her many professional achievements as a lawyer fighting against sex discrimination, this is no dry academic work: her personal life is an important part of her story.
Born in Brooklyn to Jewish parents, Ginsburg was always a deep thinker: a tomboy who never indulged in small talk or girl chat. She was not a show pony - that role naturally went to her gregarious husband Marty, the love of her life whom she met in college when aged 17 (he was 18). They seemed to bring out the best in each other. In interviews with her son and daughter, they joke that their father did the cooking; their mother the thinking.
Archival film footage is combined with interviews from colleagues, friends, family and politicians such as Bill Clinton, who talks about Ginsburg's appointment as justice to the US supreme court. We get an insight into her skills and tenacity through the early years, when she was one of 9 women at Harvard among a class of 500 men. In a climate when state and federal laws discriminated on the basis of gender, Ginsburg agreed to teach a course about gender and law. Her winning groundbreaking cases was the beginning of change, as the women's rights movement evolved in the 70s: a follow-on from the civil rights movement of the 60s.
Watch for her guest cameo appearance (in a speaking role) on stage in what is her passion - an opera. 'The sound of the human voice is like an electric current,' she says. When the film begins, we watch this dynamo at work - in the gym. The words 'Super Diva' are boldly printed across her t-shirt. She is lifting weights, doing planks and push ups, as she continues to build up strength after two encounters with cancer. 'She is like a cyborg,' her trainer states.
The philosophy of this remarkable woman can be summed up through her words: 'I ask no favours for my sex; all I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.'
Email this article
CAST: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton, Sharron Frontiero
PRODUCER: Julie Cohen, Betsy West
DIRECTOR: Julie Cohen, Betsy West
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Claudia Raschke
EDITOR: Carla Gutierrez
MUSIC: Miriam Cutler
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 26, 2018; now available through iTunes