Thursday 20 June 2019

The Critics: RBG

(PG, 99mins, ★★★★)

American judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photo: Stephen Chernin/AP Photo
American judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photo: Stephen Chernin/AP Photo Newsdesk Newsdesk

You may have noticed at recent anti-Trump protests in the US that some of the agitators were T-shirts bearing the image of a thin, owlish, elderly woman. She is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the arch liberal on the American Supreme Court, and the polar opposite of President Trump's recent and rather controversial appointment, Brett Kavanaugh.

A hero to many, Ms Ginsberg has been fighting the good fight since graduating in the late 1950s and facing a wall of derision and prejudice when she tried to practice law. Instead, for a decade or so, she taught it, but in 1970, with the help of her husband Martin Ginsburg, she found a clever way of attacking the legality of discrimination on the basis of sex. Through that decade she made a name for herself, by successfully winning a series of US Circuit and Supreme Court appeals proving that barring women from certain jobs and pay scales was unconstitutional.

Jimmy Carter appointed her to the US Court of Appeals in 1980, Bill Clinton moved her up to the Supreme Court in 1992. Ever since, she's been a thorn in the side of the American right.

Not everyone loves her, and at the start of this partisan but informative documentary, we see outraged 'patriots' calling her a "demon", a "devil" and a threat to America, that last an odd claim when her whole career seems to have been devoted to fulfilling the promises implicit in the US Constitution.

RBG is a remarkable, likeable woman, and though 85 and in poor health, has no intention whatsoever of retiring and leaving her Supreme Court seat to some other Kavanaugh. Next month, she'll be played by Felicity Jones in the Hollywood drama On the Basis of Sex, and Betsy West and Julie Cohen's entertaining documentary provides a perfect introduction to her life and work.

Irish Independent

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