TIFF 2017: ‘The Judge’ Review

Judge Kholoud Al-Faqih


The Judge (not the Robert Downey Jr. one) is a very apt title for this documentary. I think we all unintentionally associate the profession with men, so Erika Cohn’s film about the first female judge in the Middle Easts’ Shari’a courts is a welcome surprise.

Kholoud Al-Faqih is an extraordinary woman – prior to becoming a judge, she worked as a lawyer helping Palestinian women who were victims of domestic abuse. Frequently giving legal advice, she is worried about how few women are aware of the rights they have in Shari’a court. Her goal is to become a judge and, in her words, “throw a rock to stir these stagnant waters.” Naturally, she achieved her goal (albeit with backlash from both men and women), a monumental achievement signalling progress for women’s rights in the Middle East.

The film isn’t afraid to address the parts of Shari’a law that are harmful to women, such as the ‘honour killing’ defence – an excuse that lets men get away with murder. More importantly though, the film never suggests that Islam is anti-feminist, only the people who are resistant to positive change.

The documentary itself is rather straightforward, but not all documentaries need to be overly dramatic to be compelling. It provides a rare insight into Shari’a law – an aspect of the Middle East that scares the western world, when in reality, they know little to nothing about it.

Rating: 7/10

Public Screenings: Sept 11 3:45 pm, Sept 13 9:15 pm, Sept 16 9:15 am

Find all of our TIFF 2017 reviews and coverage here.

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