Oscar-nominated co-director of RBG on campus in March

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MTSU will host a conversation with Oscar-nominated Julie Cohen, co-director of RBG, the critically and commercially acclaimed film on the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on March 18. The event is free and open to the public.

The screening will be held at 6 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom, followed by the talk. MTSU Recording Industry Department chair Beverly Keel will lead Cohen in a conversation about the making of one of 2018’s most successful documentaries, which has earned nearly $14 million at the box office. A screening will also be held at 2 p.m. at the Keathley University Theater (KUC).

RBG is nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary feature category. Cohen and/or the film have also received nominations from the Directors Guild of America Awards, Productions Guild of America Awards and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

At the age of 85, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has developed a lengthy legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop-culture icon. But the unique personal journey of her rise to the nation’s highest court has been largely unknown, even to some of her biggest fans – until now. RBG explores Ginsburg’s life and career.

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Julie Cohen (right) and Betsy West

Working with a team of women in the top creative and executive roles, Cohen and co-director Betsy West began filming in June 2016. They filmed her at work, on vacation and even with her personal trainer. They researched the dramatic stories of the clients she represented as a young lawyer arguing before the Supreme Court in the 1970s. At that time, it was perfectly legal to discriminate on the basis of sex. Ginsburg’s brilliant legal strategy resulted in five groundbreaking rulings that made great strides toward putting women and men on an equal footing before the law, Cohen says.

In addition to priceless footage with Ginsburg, the documentary features interviews with President Bill Clinton, activist Gloria Steinem, Sen. Orrin Hatch, National Public Radio correspondent Nina Totenburg and attorney Ted Olson, as well as Ginsburg’s children.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg strikes a special chord with college students,” Cohen says. “I can’t wait to come to MTSU to talk about RBG – the woman and the film. I’ll be sharing some behind-the-camera stories about making the documentary and looking forward to having a broader conversation about women in the film industry, the growing popularity of nonfiction movies and whatever else the students want to talk about.”

Cohen has directed and produced nine feature documentaries, including RBG (Magnolia, Participant, CNN Films), The Sturgeon Queens (7th Art Releasing), which screened at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival and 60 others, winning 10 Audience Choice Awards; American Veteran (Freestyle Digital Media), which screened at 20 festivals and won the 2017 Panavision Showcase Award for New York filmmakers; and Live to Sing (WNET), which won the 2014 New York Emmy® Award for Best Arts Program, one of three New York Emmys® she has won since 2012.

Before starting her own production company, Better Than Fiction, Cohen was a staff producer at NBC News for nine years, where she won the Individual Achievement Award for Best News Producer from American Women in Radio and Television (Gracie Award). In the 1990s, she created and produced Court TV’s weekly program Supreme Court Watch. A graduate of Colgate University, she holds Master’s degrees from Yale Law School, where she was a Knight Journalism Fellow, and Columbia University, where she is currently an adjunct professor in the documentary program.

“I am thrilled that Julie Cohen found time to join us to discuss RBG,” Keel says. “Her schedule has become quite hectic with the film’s extraordinary success because people across the nation are eager to hear more about the story of the trailblazing Supreme Court justice. Of course, given our students’ varied majors and interests, they will have many questions about gender, law and filmmaking issues. Julie is eager to share her experiences with our students, for which I am very grateful.”

The MTSU event is sponsored by the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, the College of Media and Entertainment and the Department of Recording Industry.

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