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Docs to Watch: In Tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Monday 28 September, 2020

Last week, our thoughts turned to the life and achievements of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died aged 87, on September 18th. 

Members of the DocHouse ‘Social’ Whatsapp group recommended the brilliant 2018 doc RBG, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, which traces Bader Ginsburg’s singular life and career: her devotion to fighting for justice, her trailblazing focus on women’s rights, her fearless determination and indefatigable passion. 

Inspired by the ‘Notorious RBG’, and a love of great documentaries, the Whatsapp group conversation turned to other films about inspiring women who have overcome great hurdles.

So this week, we turn the DocHouse blog post over to our fantastic community of documentary lovers, who have shared these brilliant recommendations to watch online. Thanks in particular to Nic, Nicky, Marina, Zandile, Andrew and Carol for their great suggestions.

If you want to join the Whatsapp group, just head here

And if you like this list, be sure to join us on 28th October to watch Mai Khoi and the Dissidents, with a Q&A with the film’s director and Mai Khoi herself, the extraordinary protest singer who gave up state-sanctioned stardom to fight for democracy and human rights in Vietnam.

RBG / Julie Cohen & Betsy West / 2019 / 98 mins

Nominated as 107th justice to the United States Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a radical groundbreaker who held her nerve in a time when being a woman “was an impediment”.

Through home movies, archive footage and interviews, this is an intimate portrait of a woman who fought tirelessly and patiently to change the world for women.

Watch RBG on Netflix.


ADVOCATE / Rachel Leah Jones & Philippe Bellaiche / 2019 / 108 mins

Most of her fellow Israelis call them terrorists. But Lea Tsemel calls her Palestinian clients ‘freedom fighters’. She is their advocate - passionately defending them in court, as she has done for decades. 

Philippe Bellaiche and Rachel Leah Jone’s multi-award-winning documentary interweaves distinctive animation and archive to tell Lea’s story as she takes on two difficult new cases. 

Despite nearly always losing, Lea is determined to represent her clients’ humanity after fifty years of occupation.

Watch Advocate on iTunes


TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM / Timothy Greenfield-Sanders / 2019 / 120 mins

Completed a few months before the celebrated author's death, this lovingly crafted film, directed by Toni Morrison's friend and photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, has Morrison narrate her own story, from her earliest days growing up in small town Ohio. “I have spent my entire writing life trying to make sure that the white gaze was not the dominant one in any of my books,” she tells us, staring straight into the camera.
Don't miss our free online screening of Toni Morrison: The PIeces I Am coming up on 14th October, in partnership with Genesis Cinema for Black History Month.


AFGHAN STAR / Havana Marking / 2009 / 85mins

Afghanistan's answer to Pop Idol or The X Factor, 'Afghan Star' was watched by a third of the country's population. Over 11 million people voted for their favourite singers, making the show a small but significant unifying force for the country's diverse ethnic groups and giving people a taste of democracy.

Havana Marking's film follows four contestants in the third series of Afghan Star, and our Whatsapp group recommendation focused on 21-year-old Setara, who faces death threats and eviction from her home after expressing herself by dancing during her performance.

Watch on Guide Doc.

KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE / Rachel Lears / 2019 / 86 mins

It's 2018 and four progressive, female democrats have decided to run for Congress. Knock Down the House follows Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin as they mount bold, grass-roots campaigns, setting their sites on toppling long standing incumbents. 

Rachel Lears followed all four women from the start of their campaigns, but only one will make it all the way to congress. It's a thrill to watch Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez go from her job as a bartender, to the campaign trail, to congress.

Watch Knock Down the House on Netflix.

SALMA / Kim Longinotto / 2013 / 90 mins

When Salma was 13, her parents took her out of school and locked her away in a room with a single window. After 9 years she gave in to pressure to agree to an arranged marriage and was released from her house arrest into another kind of prison, in the home of her new husband's family.

Throughout her desperate years of confinement, Salma poured out her anguish writing poetry, which she sneaked out of the house, eventually getting a notebook into the hands of an enthusiastic publisher. Against the odds, Salma became one of the best known Tamil poets and her newfound fame helped her start on the path to freedom.

Following Salma on a trip back to her village, director Kim Longinotto paints a nuanced portrait of an extraordinary, resilient woman. 

Watch on Amazon or Kanopy.

Then watch our Q&A with the film's editor, Ollie Huddleston, here

MAIDEN / Alex Holmes / 2018 / 97 mins

Her male competitors thought an all-women crew would never make it, the chauvinistic yachting press took bets on her failure, and potential sponsors rejected her, but 24-year-old cook-turned-skipper Tracy Edwards refused to give up on her dream. 

In 1989 she led first ever all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Race, shocking the sport and proving that women are the equal of men. 

Watch Maiden on Dogwoof, Youtube and Amazon.


FOR SAMA / Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts / 2019 / 96 mins

For Sama is a letter from young mother Waad al-Kateab to her baby daughter Sama, to whom she gave birth surrounded by the cataclysmic conflict in Aleppo.

Starting from filming her group of friends, some of whom are doctors who are choosing to remain and do what they can to resist and care for the community, Waad captures a shattering first-person experience of war.

Watch For Sama on Channel 4 and Amazon.

You can watch the DocHouse Q&A with directors Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts here

UNDER THE WIRE / Chris Martin / 2018 / 93 mins

On 13 February 2012, two journalists entered war-ravaged Syria. One of them was acclaimed Sunday Times war correspondent Marie Colvin, known for her fearless journalism. The other was her colleague, photographer Paul Conroy. Their aim was to cover the plight of Syrian civilians trapped in Homs, a city under siege and relentless military attack from the Syrian army. Only one of them returned.

Told through footage from the scene, clips from live television and recent accounts, this is the story of Paul and Marie’s fateful mission, and the horrors of the Syrian war that they bore witness to.

Watch on Dogwoof and Amazon

Bertha DocHouse hosted a Q&A with Paul Conroy and director Chris Martin, which you can watch here.

BE NATURAL: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ALICE GUY BLACHE / Pamela B. Green / 2018 / 103 mins

Alice Guy-Blaché was a prolific filmmaker and a cinematic pioneer, yet she has largely been erased from the history books. In this entertaining and enlightening documentary, Pamela B. Green goes on an eventful journey to discover the astonishing scope of Guy-Blaché’s career, and probe just why she has been forgotten. 

In her quest to unearth everything she can about Guy-Blaché’s remarkable life, Green interviews 90 filmmakers and historians, and criss-crosses the US, procuring a wealth or artifacts and anecdotes from Guy-Blaché’s descendants. 

Watch on iTunes and Amazon.

For more on the film, watch our panel discussion with freelance writer, critic and film historian Pamela Hutchinson,, hosted by Mia Bays, Director-at-Large of Birds' Eye View, a Reclaim the Frame event.