RBG and Minding the Gap are American testimonies of truth and power from both a public and personal point of view.
The Sundance Film Festival, held every January in Park City, Utah, is a respite and a space where artistic expression and progressive ideals are welcomed. This year, #MeToo showed up loud and proud. Sundance updated its code of conduct to include new guidelines aimed at preventing sexual harassment. Of the 122 feature films premiering at the festival, 37 per cent were directed by women – well ahead of industry stats. And off-screen, Main Street was the site of a «Respect Rally» marking the one year anniversary of the international Women’s Marches.
Overall, the slate at Sundance was packed with timely work. I selected two films that speak to the current social and political climate: RBG and Minding The Gap.
The «Notorious RBG»
As I begin writing this story, a live stream plays in the window of the Washington Post website open in my browser. It’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg being interviewed. «Picking a favorite case that advanced gender equality is like picking a favorite grandchild,» she says. I figure this line is good place to start my review of RBG – a definitive portrait of the United States Supreme Court Justice that screened in this year’s Documentary Premieres section.
«Younger generations venerate Ginsburg because she speaks truth to power.»
For those not familiar with Ginsburg, here’s an entry point into why RBG matters, by way of the film’s opening audio montage. «This witch … this evil doer … this monster … she’s one of the most vile human beings … wicked … a zombie, that woman’s a zombie!»
Why would a petite octogenarian elicit such hateful commentary? Well, if you add that Ginsburg is a liberal member of the United States Supreme Court (the highest court in the land) who in a previous incarnation was an attorney who fought tirelessly for equal protection for women under the law, then the vitriol from certain corners of society (sadly) makes sense.
Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen move seamlessly through RBG’s set-up with an ease you’d expect from seasoned documentarians. After a fun montage about Ginsburg’s celebrity status, we’re dropped into Ginsburg’s working-class beginnings in Brooklyn, New York. We learn about values her mother instilled in her—a key one is «don’t allow yourself to be overcome by useless emotions, like anger.»
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