RBG

Reviewed by GREG KING

Documentary

Directors: Julie Cohen and Betsy West.

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Easily the best documentary to hit our screens so far this year, this engaging, insightful, inspiring and surprisingly entertaining documentary takes a look at the life and work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a long serving and influential justice who sits on the bench of the US Supreme Court.

At the age of 84 she is still full of energy, conviction and ideals, and she shows no sign of slowing down. A diminutive powerhouse with a sharp legal mind, she has become a significant voice of dissent and liberal perspectives on an increasingly right-wing bench. But she is determined to stick around as long as she is able that President Trump cannot replace her with an ultra-conservative judge.

This slickly packaged documentary is a labour of love for the filmmakers Julie Cohen (American Veteran, etc) and Betsy West, a former documentary producer making her feature directorial debut here. The pair trace Ginsburg’s rise from humble beginnings as the daughter of an immigrant family through the various challenges she faced as one of the few female law students at Harvard University in the 1950s through some of her key civil actions she tried before the Supreme Court which resulted in landmark decisions. She was a passionate advocate for equality and defender of women’s rights. She never argued in anger but preferred to persuade others with her well written arguments and voice of reason. What also comes across is her wry and self-deprecating sense of humour and the film is often very funny.

This is a straightforward documentary that unfolds in chronological fashion. Cohen and West have deftly incorporated plenty of archival footage along with candid and revealing interviews with family and friends and colleagues to give us this comprehensive and respectful look at her life and legal legacy. The film also examines her personal life, focussing on her relationship with her loving and supportive husband Marty, himself a respected lawyer, who passed away a few years ago.

The film opens in striking fashion with a montage of angry, right wing commentators denouncing Ginsburg as a “monster”, before slowly revealing her true nature as a judicial activist and champion of equality.

RBG celebrates Ginsburg’s life, her achievements and her passion for justice and equality, and is well worth catching. RBG hits cinemas ahead of the dramatized version of her life which stars Felicity Jones as the younger Ginsburg.

★★★★

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