Friday, 8 September 2017

THE JUDGE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2017: To be a female Shari’a judge in Palestine

One of the wisest and bravest women in the Middle East.

The Judge (2017)
Dir. Erika Cohn

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A society can only be as progressive as its most progressive members. Just ask Kholoud Al-Faqih, the first woman to ever be appointed to the position of judge within a Shari’a court in Palestine. As a young lawyer, she dreamed of bringing an enlightened voice to the judicial system of her country and in so doing, redress the imbalances faced by women in a world fraught with chauvinism, sexism, misogyny and just-plain blinkered old world misinterpretation of Islamic Law.

Though Erika Cohn's The Judge might have benefitted somewhat by a stricter adherence to a more pure Cinéma Direct approach (at times the interviews seemed at odds with the as-it-happens footage), the film's vérité style is rigorous enough to not betray its dynamic subject, surely one of the wisest and bravest women in the Middle East.

The film follows the day-to-day activities of this champion for the rights of women in a decidedly male-centric world and we get a rare glimpse into the civil and domestic legal struggles they face almost constantly. Al-Faqih is, however, not about to take a "home team" stance in any sort of knee-jerk fashion and she dispenses her rulings so that fairness is the key element in her dealings with both women and men. As we see, in case after case, when equality is generously applied to both sexes, even within adherence to the strict tenets of Shari’a dictates, what's good for the goose is clearly good for the gander and vice versa.

As the picture proceeds, all is not sun and roses. Al-Faqih was first appointed by an extremely liberal Sheikh and when he's forced to retire, she finds her role substantially diminished. Pulled from the courtroom and into an office to deal with strictly bureaucratic matters, she faces the frustration of having to muck through the drudgery of paper-pushing whilst justice outside her four walls is back in the hands of the patriarchy.

She's a tough nut to crack, though, and she doesn't succumb to this unfair sledge hammer approach. Her struggle to regain her rightful place is the stuff of solid "drama" and we're miraculously allowed to witness the true power of evolution and advancement.

Yeah, it's a feel-good movie. Not a damn thing wrong with that.


The Judge screens at TIFF 2017