Sundance 2018: Doc on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sells to Magnolia, Participant Media
Betsy West and Julie Cohen directed RBG, which premiered Sunday at Sundance
One of the most talked-about documentaries of this year's Sundance Film Festival will be getting a theatrical release.
Magnolia Pictures and Participant Media joined forces to acquire RBG, the film about 84-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen. The deal covers worldwide distribution including theatrical, home video, SVOD and international television. CNN Films, which produced the documentary, retains U.S. television rights.
As the United States Supreme Court leans increasingly to the right, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vigorous dissenting opinions and ferocious 20-push-up workouts have earned this tiny, soft-spoken intellectual giant the status of rock star and the title Notorious RBG.'
"RBG is an incredibly inspirational film abut a supremely inspirational woman," Eamonn Bowles, president of Magnolia Pictures, said in a statement.
"Now 84, and still inspired by the lawyers who defended free speech during the Red Scare, Ginsburg refuses to relinquish her passionate duty, steadily fighting for equal rights for all citizens under the law," Sundance wrote of the film in the festival program. "Through intimate interviews and unprecedented access to Ginsburg’s life outside the court, RBG tells the electric story of Ginsburg’s consuming love affairs with both the Constitution and her beloved husband Marty—and of a life’s work that led her to become an icon of justice in the highest court in the land."
[Read the full statement from Magnolia and Participant below]
RBG, the 2018 Sundance Film Festival sensation produced by CNN Films and Storyville Films about the consequential life and legal legacy of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has been acquired from CNN Films by Magnolia Pictures and Participant Media for worldwide distribution, including theatrical, home video, SVOD, and international television. CNN Films has U.S. broadcast rights to RBG. The film is directed and produced by award-winning filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen of Storyville Films.
“RBG is an incredibly inspirational film about a supremely inspirational woman,” said Eamonn Bowles, president of Magnolia Pictures. “Betsy and Julie have done a phenomenal job highlighting Justice Ginsburg’s tremendous effect on all of our lives. I cannot wait to show it to my daughters.”
Diane Weyermann, president of documentary film and television for Participant Media, said, “Justice Ginsburg is an extraordinary woman with an amazing story that is shared so beautifully in RBG, and the film presents a vital opportunity to encourage public discourse on the persistent barriers in achieving gender parity, as well as to help accelerate continued institutional policy changes necessary to overcome those barriers.”
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with Magnolia and Participant to bring Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s story to theaters around the world, particularly during this historic moment for women’s equality,” said Amy Entelis, executive vice president for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide.
“This dream combination of partners will build upon the excitement that already surrounds RBG – the woman and the film,” said directors West and Cohen. “We are honored to have the opportunity to tell her remarkable story.”
The film is told through the voices of Ginsburg’s family and friends, former clients and colleagues, her close friend and NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg, and historic figures whose paths she has crossed, including the son of her close friend and Supreme Court colleague, the late Antonin Scalia. Throughout, interviews with Justice Ginsburg herself add poignant layers to the images and never-before-seen personal home movies that reveal a mostly unknown life of personal challenges, incredible discipline, and a touching, decades-long romance with her husband, the late Martin Ginsburg.
Denied opportunities for employment at prestigious law firms following graduation at the top of her class at Columbia Law School, Ginsburg shaped a legal career around righting injustices for women and minorities. “She’s the closest thing to a superhero I know,” says Gloria Steinem early in the film, referencing Ginsburg’s successful Supreme Court litigation that expanded Constitutional rights for women.
Now at the age of 84, approaching the 25th anniversary of her elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg has, in recent years, also become an unexpected, intergenerational pop culture icon. West’s and Cohen’s extraordinary access for the film includes footage of Justice Ginsburg spending time at home with her granddaughter, rehearsing for a speaking role with the Washington National Opera, and even lifting weights and doing pushups and planks with her long-time trainer.
While vérité scenes and archival news footage illustrate Ginsburg’s career and personal highlights, expert editing weaves Ginsburg’s speeches, writings, and Supreme Court arguments to round out her historic impact on American life. What emerges is the definitive documentary portrait of Ginsburg: a complex jurist, scholar, opera lover, wife, mother, daughter, and fierce citizen.
For Participant Media, today’s news of the acquisition complements last year’s announcement of the pending release of On the Basis of Sex, a narrative feature film based on Ginsburg’s early professional life. On the Basis of Sex and RBG represent a doubling down by Participant on stories highlighting the urgent need for gender parity. Participant will launch a social impact campaign alongside the two films, highlighting the critical role of law in building a more equitable society.
Said David Linde, CEO of Participant, “Great films are a proven means of raising awareness and galvanizing action, and the more often you can do it, the more positive impact you have on the world. And when a beautiful film like RBG comes around, and with such great partners, you jump on the chance to be involved. We are so appreciative to Betsy, Julie, and CNN Films for their trust in bringing on Participant, and our great friends at Magnolia.”
The deal announced today was negotiated by Stacey Wolf, vice president of business affairs for CNN Worldwide, and John and Eric Sloss of Cinetic Media, on behalf of CNN Films. For Magnolia Pictures, the deal was negotiated by co-executive vice president Dori Begley, senior vice president of acquisitions John von Thaden, and head of business affairs Sarah Hack. For Participant Media, the deal was negotiated by Gabriel Brakin, general counsel and executive vice president of business affairs. RBG is co-produced by Storyville Films and CNN Films. In addition to directing the film, West and Cohen are also producers of RBG. RBG is executive produced by Entelis and Courtney Sexton, vice president of CNN Films. The film’s editor is Carla Gutierrez.
[reprinted from TheWrap.com]
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.