I awoke this morning to the heartbreaking news that US Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, had died aged 87 from complications of pancreatic cancer. The world is undoubtedly a poorer place without her, but we are all richer as a result of her incredible and inspiring contribution.
On reading the news, I immediately checked the Twitter feeds of Betsy West and Julie Cohen. West and Cohen directed RBG, the superb, Oscar nominated film about Ginsburg's life - documenting her rise to America's highest court, her legal legacy and how she became an unexpected pop culture icon, the Notorious RBG.
On hearing the news, West tweeted: "Women's rights, human rights, decency, integrity. Thank you." Meanwhile, Cohen reacted to the news by simply tweeting "WHAT A LOSS", before adding: "Surely the smartest, toughest person I'll ever have the privilege to know. Rest in Peace, Ruth Bader Ginsburg."
When I first watched West and Cohen's film, I expected it to be fascinating and I expected it to be inspiring. However, I did not expect RBG to be quite so moving. In these troubling times, a film about a person of quiet (but no less powerful) persistence, consistency and steadfast belief is both refreshing and hugely motivating.
The world needed RBG and, to the very end, she did not let us down. The best way of honouring her legacy is to tell her story and continue her fight.
West and Cohen's documentary very nearly didn’t get made. When the filmmakers first approached Ruth Bader Ginsburg about their idea for the film, her response was far from encouraging. “Not yet,” she said.
Crestfallen, the directors wondered what to do next. Then they realised something crucial - not yet did not mean “no”. After presenting her with more details about their project, RBG relented. She would speak to them about her life - in two years time.
West and Cohen spent those intervening years researching their subject before finally sitting down with Ginsburg and asking their key remaining questions (and, in a charming scene, showing her Kate McKinnon’s RBG impression from Saturday Night Live).
RBG tells Ginsburg's story via to camera interviews with family members, colleagues and admirers, archive footage and video recordings of more recent events that she attended. We soon understand the impact that RBG had on the US legal landscape - particularly with regards to gender equality and women’s rights.
Meanwhile, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personal story is just as interesting as her many professional achievements. In many moving scenes, the documentary reveals her long and adoring marriage to Martin Ginsburg.
Incredibly proud of his wife, Martin Ginsburg put his own career (as a successful tax attorney) on the back burner in order to support his wife and their family - impressive given the expectations of women at the time.
West and Cohen interview RBG's two children, Jane and James. They reveal that Ginsburg’s path to the US Supreme Court (thanks to an eye-watering work ethic) came at a price. “We used to keep a book called Mommy Laughed,” Jane recalls. “It had parsimonious entries.” When asked to describe what RBG was like as a mother, Jane simply says “exigent”.
Nonetheless, the love and affection felt by both James and Jane (and RBG’s granddaughter, a Harvard Law graduate) is clear. Watching Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whether at work, giving motivational speeches or working out at the gym, it is easy to share in their affection - joining the thousands of other people who, old or young, have been inspired by the Notorious RBG.