The AFI Fest said today that the world premiere of Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex will be its opening-night gala on Thursday November 8. The Focus Features release of the Participant Media film will open Christmas Day in a prime spot for awards season.

Ginsburg is already a major commodity in the Oscar buzz for the 2018 documentary RBG, also from Participant, which is expected to be a big player in the Documentary Feature race. With the Supreme Court such a huge trending topic these days, this screening of the new Ginsburg project starring Felicity Jone is certain to be a hot one, especially considering that it comes just two days after the midterm election day.

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Directed by AFI Conservatory alumna Mimi Leder (Class of 1973), the film tells the story of young lawyer Bader Ginsburg as she teams with her husband Marty to bring a groundbreaking case before the U.S. Court of Appeals and overturn a century of gender discrimination. It stars Academy Award nominee Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Jack Reynor and Cailee Spaeny, with Sam Waterston and Kathy Bates. The film is produced by longtime AFI Conservatory lecturer Robert W. Cort and Participant Media’s Jonathan King. The screenplay is written by Daniel Stiepleman.

The Opening Night Gala screening will take place at the TCL Chinese Theatre, the traditional venue for AFI Galas. This one launches a full week of them as the fest runs from November 8-15. The full lineup will be revealed next month. Following on the heels of the fall trifecta of festivals in Venice, Telluride and Toronto, as well as other top fests in New York and London, the AFI Fest is a prime spot to launch late-season entries with high Oscar hopes. Among other films rumored for an AFI slot is Adam McKay’s much-anticipated Dick Cheney film Vice, starring Christian Bale and Amy Adams. Time will tell what the fest has in store beyond On the Basis of Sex. 

Focus Features

“AFI was founded to celebrate excellence in the art form and to ensure it for futuregenerations,” said Bob Gazzale, President & CEO of the American Film Instituite.  “On the Basis of Sex brings these dual mandates together as one — a story essential to our times and a triumph for one of the first female directors at the AFI Conservatory.  It’s our honor to shine a proper light upon Mimi and this landmark film.”

For her part, Leder — one of the first women  ever admitted to the AFI Conservatory — thinks the time is right for this story to be told.

“The origin story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in this 25th anniversary year of her appointment to the Supreme Court, couldn’t come at a more important moment in our history nor be shown at a more relevant place than AFI Fest, a symbol of artistic integrity and the enduring power of cinema,” she said. “I hope girls and young women in particular will see the film and find inspiration to realize their own unlimited potential.”