Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
14 July 2010

Courting Justice: Documentary about Women Judges in SA

A Documentary about the Women Judges, the Courts
and Human Rights in South Africa

Produced by Luna films, created by Ruth B. Cowan, directed by Jane Thandi Lipman and edited by Dara Kell

Music by Philip Miller


The purposes of this web site are to complement and enlarge upon the documentary,Courting Justice.

The context of the film is South Africa’s transformation from apartheid to a human rights-based constitutional democracy. Courting Justice features seven of South Africa’s women judges who, as judges, are charged with advancing that transformation.

They tell “their stories,” speaking to us in their court rooms, chambers, homes and the communities in which they lived during apartheid.

In telling their stories they convey their deep commitment to creating a human rights jurisprudence and bring attention to the importance of the judiciary’s engagement in realizing the constitution’s promises. They also provide insight into the judiciary’s own transformation — a necessary condition for the judiciary’s legitimacy and effectiveness.
This web site will provide information and commentary about the

– Drive to create Courting Justice

– Film production process

– Highlights of festivals, screenings and testimonials

– Film’s historical context

– Qualifications and process for judicial appointments in South Africa

– Judicial system during apartheid and under the New Democracy

– Transformation of the judiciary by race and gender

– Biographies of the seven featured judges

– Differences women have made on the bench

– Post-apartheid constitutional and human rights developments

Highlights of Testimonials, Festivals and Screenings


Ambassador Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues The stories of these women judges make all who hear them realize “how one brings the human rights provisions of the [South African post-apartheid constitution]—and everything the constitution represents—to reality, and that is very powerful.” The film’s story “is about the great promise of human rights and judicial reform. And that can only take root and sprout and be nurtured where there are committed people in a democracy”

Linda Greenhouse,Yale Law School and former New York Times Supreme Court reporter “Courting Justice” documents in a most gripping way the role that women in the judiciary are playing in building the new South Africa. I found these women’s stories touching and inspiring.

Charles J, Ogletree, Jr., Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, Founding and Executive Director, The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice The film stands as a vivid testament to the central role of diversity in a healthy democracy.  By documenting as it does the role of women in the forefront of the administration of justice at every level of the South African society, it is also a testament to South Africa’s determination to realize the promise of its remarkable constitution.  All of this is conveyed in the most compelling terms.  This film will be… particularly useful in generating discussion of the complex relationship between race and gender in a judicial context as well a social movement context.

Carolyn Turner, Senior TV Producer, Voice of America This is an inspirational film, especially for young people with aspirations.  It is a revelation to go behind the scenes for intimate glimpses of women judges to see how meticulous they are in weighing the social and individual consequences of their judgments and interpretations of the law.  The score by Philip Miller  transports you to the time and place and you can feel the transformation this culture has witnessed.   The spontaneous singing choir in the Court at the Political Prisoners Commemoration captures that unmistakable South African sound that reflects the pure joy of freedom.  The score should be made available as a separate CD.

Roberta I. Shaffer, the Law Librarian of Congress (Library of Congress) “Courting Justice” tells many stories–the struggle of a nation to build a credible judiciary; the journey of a small group of women judges who agree to serve as role models in the courtroom, classroom and at home for a new generation; and the universal lesson that passion and perseverance can overcome almost all challenges. Through the camera’s eye and with a compelling musical score, we are captivated as women from a wide variety of starting points don judicial robes and assume a shared “bench” to transform a nation, in this case South Africa, through the rule of law.

click here for more


Festivals and Screenings

HBO COMPETITION FINALIST in Upcoming Festival – August 2010:
Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival

Courting Justice has been shown at The United Nations, Embassies and Consulates, U.S. Department of State, South Africa Parliament, Library of Congress, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Law and Society Association.

  • Voice of America.TV
  • SABC (South Africa Broadcasting Corporation)
  • Durban International Film Festival, Audience Award
  • UNIFEM Women’s Int’l Film Festival
  • International de Films de Femmes de Creteil (Paris)
  • Sichuan TV Festival, China
  • Parliament Film Festival, South Africa
  • Addis International Film Festival, Africa
  • Encounters: South African International Documentary Festival
  • Assoc. of the Bar of the City of New York
  • Black Lawyers Association
  • Cornell University—School of Labor & Industrial Relations and School of Law
  • Harvard Law School—Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice
  • International Association of Women Judges
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Centennial Meeting
  • National Association of Women Judges
  • Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies
  • Southern Coalition for Social Justice
  • Union Baptist Church, Durham, N.C
  • U.S. Committee for UNIFEM
  • Yale Law School
  • YWCA & YMCA, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois

Courting Justice can be purchased or rented by contacting Women Make Movies – (US & Canada)
email: Abby Peck apeck@wmm.com

US telephone 1 212 925 0606 ext 360

outside US, contact Fireworx Media
email: Dan Jawtiz dan@fireworxmedia.co.za
SA telephone +27 11 403 4949, Mobile +27 82 330 8736

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