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453.. The Judge; movie review

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Title : 453.. The Judge; movie review
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Cert TBA
76 mins
BBFC advice: TBA

What have powerful men got to fear from ambitious women?
That is a question which hung heavily in the air after I took in Erika Cohn's biopic of the first female judge of Sharia Law.
Kholoud Al-Fakih broke down boundaries when she was appointed in 2012 but, as Cohn's film shows, she needed Grade A steel to help her to continue to be the beacon for other professional women in the Muslim world.
To us in the West, the resistance to Al-Fakih's rise to prominence in Palestine and her subsequent defiance will seem way out of its time.
But it is not as surprising as the reaction of some Palestinian WOMEN who still believe that men have a greater mental capacity.
They give their views in Cohn's documentary which was put together over several years and chronicles the tenacity of Al-Fakih in holding on to her post, despite attempts to unseat her and thwart her legacy.
The film-maker has achieved impressive access and built up significant trust to glean poignant answers from her subjects.
Thus, much of the movie is spent in Al-Fakih's home with her lawyer husband and their children.
Indeed, the normality of their lives in a land of great turmoil left me somewhat surprised.
The cameras are also allowed into the domestic cases on which Al-Fakih has to judge. She is the personification of reason but has the unenviable task of persuading the applicants this is the case.
And there are interviews with those who support liberalisation of the Palestinian judiciary and those who definitely do not.
As said, some of the latter views will jar heavily with western sensibilities but are much more mainstream in the Arab world.
It is fascinating that, despite vehement opposition in some quarters, Al-Fakih is not a shouter, preferring reasoned, if impassioned, arguments to back her agenda.
Her demeanour serves her well in both the courtroom and outside of it. Will it help her achieve her ambition of the top role in the Sharia justice system? I doubt it but there is no doubt she is a ground-breaker and this is film could be an opinion-former.

Reasons to watch: A symbol of bravery and determination in an adverse world
Reasons to avoid: Could do with an inspired narration

Laughs: None
Jumps: None
Vomit: None
Nudity: None
Overall rating: 8/10

Director quote - Erika Cohn: "I wanted to inspire women and girls to aspire to roles in their communities and challenge cultural norms but also combat Sharia and Islamophobic sentiment.”

The big question: What have Muslim men got to fear from Muslim women?

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