Running Time: 97 minutes
Directed by: Betsy West & Julie Cohen
Featuring: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Ginsburg, James Steven Ginsburg, Nina Totenberg, Clara Spera, Gloria Steinem
Sarah Grimké: “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”
This week we see the release of one of the better-received and successful documentaries from last year on DVD, that is the excellent “RBG” (2018). This last year has been a milestone for documentary films that not only been released into cinemas but have been attended in record numbers by audiences all over the world.
This year has been an excellent year for documentaries not only on streaming or DVD but in cinemas which is a trend that goes against what many people may have expected. However I find this to be exactly what should be expected especially with the concentration of so-called ‘fake news’ that now exists on the internet, coupled with what has been coming from the White House under the Trump Presidency. In fact there was a thought that cinematic documentaries might be a thing of the past especially with the success as well as saturation of Disney-fied blockbusters invading multiplexes, in fact audiences have been flocking to cinemas to seek out stories about real people making real differences in times and places where many others have been marginalised and made powerless by the people in charge in their respective times. Some of the great, as well as critically received, not forgetting making money documentaires at the box office are: “Wont you be my neighbour?” (2018), “Three Identical Strangers” (2018), “Jane” (2018), “McQueen” (2018), and my personal favourite “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” (2017) with so many more. What this says about audiences is that they will seek out true stories told in the relative first person that are not only inspiring but are direct counter programming to the politics of the day as well as the lies that are being produced by a President who is not only artificial but hate fuelled. My belief as a fan of documentaries is that this genre will only gain in popularity, with the coming years being a boon as well as revealing the importance of truth in the media as well as the importance of researching decisions made by the electorate. It is no surprise that the rise in fake news, Donald Trump, racism and may other hate fuelled elements has been answered by artists creating documentaries that prove there can be positive outcomes when people choose to buck the system as well as believing in others, differences, freedom and most of all, love.
There can be few more important women in the US right now than Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she is not only an icon for women everywhere, but as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States which she has been since 1993 she is seen as a bastion of hope for liberals everywhere, someone who shares not only feminist ideals but has been a spokesperson for human rights in this post Trump world she finds herself in through no fault of her own. RBG as the titular hero of her own story in the film of the same name could not have been released at a better time in relation to a great many elements that exist not only in the US but the world at the moment.
“RBG” A look at the career of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which has spanned many decades, and how she developed a legal legacy while becoming prominent within pop culture. The film is a biographical depiction of the Supreme Court Justice from her birth in Brooklyn, New York through her rise to the Supreme Court, up to the year of the film’s distribution in 2018.
Filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West have directed this new documentary; they approach Ginsberg with much respect, reverence and defer to her at almost every point. It has to be said that Ginsberg is exceptionally intelligent, in that she knows just how to frame a narrative, even her own, when being interviewed she is disarmingly open, frank, approachable and often very funny she is aware of her audience, playing up to them as a populist like few Supreme Court Judges before. Both directors come from different backgrounds, Cohen has more experience than West, this shows in the formulaic approach, this movie feels like a studied earnest approach but is a little by the numbers in terms of who they expected to actually view the movie, in other words they are doing something that is very familiar to people in the US, much like the President, playing to their base, no surprises or revelations. I know how important Ginsberg is at the moment, but there are some commentators that believe she should have left when President Obama could have replaced her with a liberal choice who would have served for some time, instead of all the Ginsberg watching that is being done at the moment.
This is a movie that charts Ginsberg’s journey from Harvard – where she was one of nine women in an intake of over 500 – to the highest echelons of public service, it does make for an interesting narrative that at time is made out to be predestined. In current #meetoo era we see Ginsberg as exceptionally intelligent, with an unsurpassed work ethic which it had to be as it was this that pushed her past her peers, who lets face it were all male. While caring for a deathly ill husband and raising a young child, Ginsberg became the first woman to sit on the Harvard Law Review and then graduated first equal after transferring to Columbia Law School in New York city.
It’s that work ethic that defines her today, as the now 85-year-old still regularly works 18-hour days, while maintaining a workout regime and finding time to appear on stage in operas. Ginsberg took six cases to the US Supreme Court and won five of them before President Clinton appointed her to that Court.
There is no doubt at all that “RBG” is a very good documentary, it definitely deserved all the kudos as well as box office success that it has enjoyed and I have no doubt it will be nominated at this years Academy Awards in the Best Documentary category. The great thing about this documentary is that it does two things very well; it highlights the achievements of a woman who became great through hard work, determination and in spite of the dominant male hierarchy that existed as she was becoming who she is. It also acts in juxtaposition to the current political climate that we find ourselves in socially, morally as well as politically. “RBG” is a film that is useful for all to view as a reminder of how people can succeed in spite of disadvantages or set backs, it also reminds liberals that there is hope, that they are in the majority even though it seems they may not be, there are still leaders that we should inspire to be and not be embarrassed by.