‘RBG’: Jus­tice’s in­spir­ing story plays CNN

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Television - Hal Boedeker

Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg saw “RBG,” the doc­u­men­tary of her life, for the first time at this year’s Sundance Film Fes­ti­val.

Direc­tors Betsy West and Julie Co­hen watched their sub­ject’s ev­ery re­ac­tion, not the screen, West re­called. “After­ward, she vol­un­teered that the film ex­ceeded her ex­pec­ta­tions,” West said. “We were very re­lieved.”

Movie­go­ers have been very im­pressed, and the film has grossed nearly $14 mil­lion. The in­spir­ing story of Gins­burg, 85, premieres at 9 p.m. Mon­day, La­bor Day, on CNN.

“Here is a woman who faced a lot of chal­lenges in her own life,” West said. “She over­came those chal­lenges and then did some­thing that helped ev­ery other Amer­i­can woman.”

At­tor­ney Gins­burg bat­tled gen­der-based dis­crim­i­na­tion by stress­ing that it hurts ev­ery­one and won five of six cases she ar­gued be­fore the U.S. Supreme Court. The doc­u­men­tary takes her 1993 con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing to the high court as its struc­ture.

“She was very forth­right, didn’t avoid an­swer­ing any dif­fi­cult ques­tion, just laid it out there,” West said. “She sets up her back­ground as a daugh­ter of im­mi­grants, then takes you through the var­i­ous chap­ters of an ex­tra­or­di­nary story.”

The Se­nate con­firmed her, 96-3. Her ap­peal is broad: She be­friended con­ser­va­tive Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia.

“That seems to be a tem­plate for a cer­tain kind of ci­vil­ity that we have lost in our po­lar­ized world,” West said. “They truly were good friends. That’s not so com­mon to­day in Wash­ing­ton or in other places where peo­ple are hav­ing a time talk­ing to each other when they don’t agree po­lit­i­cally.”

The film ex­plores her clos­est re­la­tion­ships. At 17, she lost her mother, Celia Bader. Gins­burg “has em­u­lated her ex­am­ple of both in­de­pen­dence and re­fine­ment,” West said.

A 56-year mar­riage to tax at­tor­ney Marty Gins­burg, who died in 2010, is key to un­der­stand­ing the jus­tice. They were equals in mar­riage and in rais­ing their two chil­dren. He was witty and ador­ing, and “RBG” be­comes a touch­ing love story.

The film presents can­cer sur­vivor Gins­burg giv­ing speeches, work­ing out and chuck­ling at Kate McKin­non play­ing her on “Satur­day Night Live.”

“We didn’t tell her what it was,” West said. “She looks at it and says, ‘That’s ‘“Satur­day Night Live”’? We said yes. She just burst into laugh­ter.”

The film has touched older women, who have come out cry­ing be­cause they know what Gins­burg faced, and wowed lit­tle girls, who have worn Gins­burg col­lars and glasses. “There is some­thing about this el­derly, tiny grand­mother who in­spires young girls to see that they can stand up for them­selves and make a dif­fer­ence,” West said.

“Peo­ple are look­ing for a hero, for in­spir­ing sto­ries, to cel­e­brate a per­son of in­tegrity and fas­ci­na­tion,” West said. “I’m very happy they found the movie. There are an aw­ful lot of good doc­u­men­taries that come and go. We’re lucky that Jus­tice Gins­burg had a kind of no­to­ri­ety al­ready. She was al­ready a rock star with the gen­er­a­tion that dubbed her No­to­ri­ous RBG.”

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