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One of the first things we see in ASK DR. RUTH is the subject of that documentary, the legendary Dr. Ruth Westheimer breaking the fourth wall to tell director, Ryan White, to call his mother. And while she is serious, she also has a twinkle in her eye. I can’t think of a better way to introduce her to an audience. Here’s a woman who has been through hell in her 90s years, and is not only still concerned with other people’s happiness, she still has a big smile on her face.
White grew up as Dr. Ruth was, as he puts it, blowing up in the media, and in many ways he’s barely lived in a world where saying the word “vagina” in public is a taboo.
When we spoke on April 21, 2019, the first thing I asked was when he had first become aware of Dr. Ruth before we moved on to the astonishing story of the 55 years she lived before she achieved fame as the country’s sex therapist.
We went on to talk about why Dr. Ruth chose to end her television career; what it was like spending so much time with her, both in person and via the massive archives she has amassed; choosing to animate the diary excerpts; why her story took on an urgent resonance while he was editing it; and what it was like being with her when she finally chose to find out what happened to her parents, who had been killed in the Holocaust.
Andrea Chase takes you Behind the Scenes of ASK DR. RUTH with director Ryan White. Using archival footage, personal diaries, and extensive time with the woman herself, White traces the remarkable life of the endlessly resilient and upbeat Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Before she made the world safe for honest sex talk, she was a Holocaust survivor (she prefers the term orphan), refugee, Israeli freedom fighter, and a single-mother in New York who worked at Planned Parenthood. The result is a portrait of a singular human being whose story resonates today, and who isn’t afraid to tell you to call your mother. White’s previous work includes THE KEEPERS and THE CASE AGAINST 8.