Arts & Entertainment
Introduction by Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Q&A with Film’s Director
by Shana Liebman –
An audible sigh of relief could be heard round the world when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg quickly recovered from her recent fall and was photographed at the White House giving Senator Hatch an enthusiastic hug.
“I was so relieved to see that photo,” said Julie Cohen, the multi-award-winning news producer turned filmmaker. “I was so pleased to see RBG looking her usual stylish self.” While not the way most people might see Justice Ginsburg, Cohen has a unique lens. She spent the last three years researching and trailing her for the acclaimed documentary RBG that she co-directed with Betsy West.
On Saturday, December 14 at 7:30 p.m., the Irvington Town Hall Theater (ITHT) will present a special screening of RBG, followed by a Q&A with Cohen. State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins will introduce the film.
“Justice Ginsburg is a trailblazer and a pioneer who has served our country with honor for many years. She helped break an enormous glass ceiling and has fiercely defended gender equality and women’s rights,” noted Stewart-Cousins (who herself recently made history as the first woman to be elected New York State Senate Majority Leader). “Her legacy is one of resilience, and it is important we share her story with a wide audience.”
Director Cohen has served on the As iFF (All Shorts Irvington Film Festival) Advisory Board since the festival’s debut in 2015, and presented her award-winning documentary, The Sturgeon Queens (about the famous Russ & Daughters delicatessen in lower Manhattan) in 2014 as part of ITHT’s “Best of Film Series.”
In RBG, Cohen and co-director West chronicle Justice Ginsburg’s life and career in one of this year’s most acclaimed films. “We were really a good team to be making this documentary because we both had a long-time commitment to women’s issues and legal issues as areas of interest,” Cohen explained. “And we have a sort of style of storytelling of wanting to get into substantive issues but wanting to do them in a very character-driven human way.”
They embarked on the project in 2015 but Justice Ginsburg said she wouldn’t be available—until 2017. In the meantime, the two filmmakers started researching and quickly realized that most people only knew Ginsburg “as the second female Supreme Court justice, and also as the hilarious, semi-ironic Notorious RBG,” said Cohen.
In fact, much of her greatest work happened years before “when she really led the charge to make women and men equal under the U.S. Constitution via a series of Supreme Court cases that she argued,” said Cohen. Unlike the more conspicuous work of someone like Gloria Steinem, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s quieter and more persistent contribution to women’s rights was just as important.
When Cohen and West were granted access to the Justice, they found that there was more to her than a reserved sober judge. Not only does the 85-year-old lift weights every day but “she has quite a quick wit and also can be brought to spasms of laughter even just seeing the Saturday Night Live impression of herself.”
One of the biggest surprises for Cohen, however, was Ginsburg’s passions outside the law. “The deepness of her love of opera in particular and all the arts is really striking and interesting.” When the film premiered at Sundance this year, Ginsburg cried while watching herself watching the opera.
While the film is certainly emotional at times, most people “come out of the theater feeling really good.” The second most common reaction, said Cohen, “is ‘Oh boy, I gotta start working out!’”
Tickets for ITHT’s December 14th exclusive screening of RBG— with an introduction by Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins and Q&A following the screening with director Julie Cohen—are reserved seating ($15/$30). Advance ticketing is recommended. (Visit: www.irvingtontheater.com/film.)