Arts July 7, 2021

Doing Justice to Ruth

Sun Valley Film Festival film honors the late RBG

When producers Regina Scully and Geralyn Dreyfous approached Academy Award® and Emmy Award winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock about doing a documentary on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she leaped at the chance but wondered how she could create something unique and capture the Notorious one’s essence as well as tell her unique story. In Ruth–Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Words, Mock mixed archival footage of the supreme justice in action with contemporary interviews and even animation to illustrate RBG’s legacy.

Ruth–Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Word was one of the highlights of the 2021 Sun Valley Film Festival. Mock, who has been visiting Sun Valley for over 30 years, has profiled many prominent people but creating Ruth took on special meaning for her as she studied history and law at UC Berkeley. She noted that Ginsburg, “profoundly believed in equal justice for all.”

In her film, a young boy posits a question to Ginsburg: “Was it hard to become a Supreme Court justice because you are a woman?” Though Ginsburg did very well in law school (she tied first in her graduating class and made Law Review at both Harvard and Columbia Law Schools), not a single law firm in the whole city of New York invited her to interview for a job. “I suspected that the door was closed because of my sex,” states Ginsburg in the film. “So, the barriers were there. In those days, I had three strikes against me. One is I was Jewish. Another I was a woman. And then one that I think really did me in was I had a four-year-old daughter.” But these three strikes did not keep her down and out, as the resilient, indomitable Ginsburg broke down barriers for herself and all Americans, becoming a life-long advocate for gender equality and women’s rights.

Mock observed that Ginsburg often spoke about unconscious bias. “It was the last frontier for her,” said Mock. “We don’t even know that we are still discriminating.” Mock discovered that Ginsburg consistently used her platform to talk about unconscious (and to Ginsburg unconscionable) bias.

“My approach was shaped by the idea of having Justice Ginsburg tell her own story as much as possible and shaping it around her first-person account so that you feel you have an intimate relationship with her,” said Mock.

Mock is an expert in creating dynamic profiles including the Academy Award® winning best documentary feature Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, which is a portrait of the artist/architect who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and its impact on the American people. Besides the Academy Award®, Mock has also received five Academy Award® nominations, two prime-time Emmy Awards and three prime-time Emmy nominations.

Mock hopes that her film will illuminate “how much the rulings of the Supreme Court impact our daily lives—whether wages, health care, marriage, gun rights, military service, right to speak, etc.—and that we will be active, alert and interested about our government and know that each of us can make a difference, by the examples of the stories in my RBG film.”

 

This article appears in the Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.