Best Documentary

RBG – Film Review

RBG – Film Review by Frank L.

Directors: Julie Cohen, Betsy West
Stars: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton, Sharron Frontiero

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in 1933 in Brooklyn to a first generation Jewish American family. Academically gifted, she obtained her primary degree at Cornell University, where she also met her husband, the love of her life, before going to Harvard to obtain a law degree. At that time, the early nineteen fifties, female law students were a rarity and endured disdain and discrimination from the predominately male establishment. Notwithstanding the need to be a mother and wife, she carved an academic career in the law where she railed against the inherent gender bias against women of many of the laws as enacted. But she did not just complain, she brought cases to court on the basis that certain laws and their implementation were unconstitutional.

Directors West and Cohen, in this captivating film, utilise the actual words Ginsburg spoke in various cases in the US Supreme Court to demonstrate her calm and careful analysis of certain laws and practices, whereby she highlighted that they were in fact prejudicial to women and therefore did not treat women as equal citizens as men. The result was that those laws were unconstitutional. These decisions were ground breaking and altered how women were treated throughout society. Her contribution as an advocate to the law was both reasoned and revolutionary. In 1993, President Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court as the second woman member.

In the intervening years she has continued to be a strong liberal voice in the Supreme Court but has also become an icon for many of the younger generation in the United States, in particular law students. Another remarkable aspect of RBG is that notwithstanding the gruelling work schedule she maintains, she finds time for various artistic pursuits, particularly opera. The documentary also gives an insight into her personal relationships with other members of the Supreme Court with whom as a lawyer she does not agree. This part of the documentary was particularly absorbing to watch as at play she is a person of enormous charm.

RBG has in her career been a successful wife, mother and widow, but she has combined those skills with being an outstanding academic lawyer and advocate and ultimately a judge. She is a renaissance woman whose humanity, intellectual curiosity, capacity for hard work joined with a high appreciation of the arts have created the phenomenon known as RBG. See this documentary and ponder about a woman who is a credit to the human race.


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