The Judge (2018)

NR Running Time: 81 mins



  • This is a movie we should all really take a look at. The story of Kholoud Al-Faqih could not be more timely.

  • Offers a sense of scope and impact to better understand what Al-Faqih’s elevation to the judicial branch means for the current state of Palestine.

  • A movie with this message is always important.


  • May leave you wanting more. At 81 minutes, The Judge leaves more than a few questions left unexplored/unanswered.

  • It is hard to come up with a compelling reason to actively avoid this movie. I suppose subtitles, documentaries, issues involving Palestine and Israel - if those elements do not interest you, be honest - you were never watching this anyway.

  • You agree with the dissenting opinion of what is represented in Erika Cohn’s film.


In Erika Cohn’s important and thought-provoking new documentary The Judge, we learn about The Honorable Kholoud Al-Faqih, one of only two female judges ever appointed to serve in Palestine’s Shari’a law court system. Cohn receives remarkable access both to Al-Faqih’s personal life, as well as her courtroom, allowing us a unique and profound glimpse into the culture, legal environment, and traditional and non-traditional views on women still being ratified in the Palestinian court of public opinion.

Al-Faqih is a fantastic focal point for Cohn’s film. She radiates a magnetic charisma, which we instantly recognize when we open with a scene that anyone who has ever worked in the legal field can relate to – her being asked legal questions by someone not connected to the legal community.

As a former paralegal, I laughed out loud when the movie begins with Al-Faqih giving legal advice to friends, who are firing off questions about what rights a friend has when facing divorce. I can tell you that this type of thing happened to me all the time, and understandably so. No matter where you are it seems, the court system is a scary and intimidating place.

Some things always seem to translate across all walks of life, don’t they?

At an expeditious 80 minutes, Cohn simply steps back and captures what she can, when she can. We learn of Al-Faqih’s journey from mother to attorney to her desire to be a judge. When told no, repeatedly, she researched Shari’a law and found no impediment in the legal framework that stopped her from pursuing her judicial appointment. The Chief Justice of the court, Sheikh Tayseer Al-Tamini, scoffed at her persistence, until she convinced him.

When he appointed Al-Faqih and a second woman to serve on the 11-member judicial council, he received threats of a personal and professional nature.

One of the loudest critics, Shari’a traditionalist and scholar Husam Al-Deen Afanah can barely hide his disgust and disdain for Al-Tamini’s decision, years after Al-Faqih and Admahan Al-Wahidi (the second female appointee) received their opportunities.

The timing could not be more apt for The Judge to begin a theatrical run in 2018. Women’s issues, both of a domestic and international flavor, have not had this much conversation and saturation since the Women’s Liberation Movement.

In one of the film’s most intriguing sidebars, we learn that Al-Tamini was removed from his role as Chief Justice after appointing the two female justices, and his replacement pulled Al-Faqih and Al-Wahidi from the bench. Cohn prefaces this development by incorporating civilian conversations on how female justices, and the emergence of more feminine prominence in modern society is viewed in every day Palestinian life.

The answers she documents may or may not surprise you.

The Judge may present as a largely by-the-book documentary, something of a garden-variety style of a movie we all have seen before. Cohn follows the formula well, she finds a compelling person or topic, then edits together footage and ties it all up with a nice bow of credits and title cards at the end.

In Kholoud Al-Faqih’s journey, we have a story that is a little bigger and more important than just another documentary about just another person.

Watching The Judge, I was struck by how matter-of-fact this all seemed to be for the first female Shari’a law judge in history. For Al-Faqih, this was a natural progression in her career. However, while Cohn may not explicitly state this in her film, the ripple effect of both her and Al-Wahidi’s appointments was massive, a topic still being debated all these years later.


Documentary Featuring: Kholoud Al-Faqih, Sheikh Tayseer Al-Tamini, Husam Al-Deen Afanah.

Director: Erika Cohn
April 13, 2018
Idle Wild Films