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Legal ind extraordinaire. Women’s rights icon. Sundance rock star?
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg brought the house to its feet — three times to be exact — at Sunday evening’s world premiere of RBG, the documentary about her life and legacy. Much to the delight of the audience, the soft-spoken justice showed no signs of slowing down.
“I hope that I can continue to be a part of making that ‘a more perfect union,'” the 84-year-old Supreme Court Justice told the jam-packed Marc Theater, referencing the famous opening line of the Constitution. “The idea of a Constitution that is still being perfected but is ever more inclusive is something that will drive me. It’s a tremendous honor that I have this job and this huge responsibility.”
Directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, the film chronicles Bader Ginsburg’s nearly 25 years on the High Court (she was a pick of President Bill Clinton) and how she pioneered gender equality. With Frontiero v. Richardson in 1973 — the first case she brought before SCOTUS prior to her run as a justice — she successfully argued that female service members deserve housing allowances akin to their male counterparts.
Ginsburg gave a thumbs-up to the women’s marches held yesterday around the country, including the one in Park City.
“It’s the responsibility of women to get out there and give a good show, to help give courage to young women and girls to get out there too,” she said.
Ginsburg said she was heartened by the increasing number of women occupying legislative jobs and urged women — especially younger women — to continue to fight for representation. She invoked the late Martin Luther King Jr. in making her point.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” she said.
RBG also offers rare glimpses into her personal life, including lifting weights with her personal trainer and milling about her kitchen with her granddaughter.
CNN Films signed on as producer in the film’s early stages and has TV rights. Theatrical rights are up for grabs and, given the reception RBG received, Ginsburg could become an inadvertent film star during polarizing times in the vein of An Inconvenient Truth’s Al Gore.
Over the years, she moved from the center to the left, becoming an ideological thorn in the side of the right-leaning court majority, including her close friend the late Antonin Scalia.
Given her active position on the court, Bader Ginsburg and the filmmakers needed to proceed with caution, lest she run afoul of Supreme Court rules. Cameras are not allowed into the court, but there are audio recordings that give added insight into Bader Ginsburg’s arguments. She cannot actively promote the film, but she was allowed to participate in Sunday’s Q&A as frequently happens with many documentary subjects. Still, she deflected one question from an audience member that dealt with President Trump policies.
“We can’t put the justice on the spot,” said Cohen.
Showing her lighter side, RBG offered some funny asides about the Sundance Film Festival. “I wish I hadn’t got rid of my skis,” she said. And on festival founder Robert Redford, she joked: “He’s as good looking as I thought he’d be.
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Jamie Lee Curtis