Ask Dr. Ruth chronicles the incredible life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a Holocaust survivor who became America's most famous sex therapist. Approaching her 90th birthday in this doco, this diminutive woman with a thick German accent shows no signs of slowing down. She revisits her painful past and unlikely path to a career at the forefront of the sexual revolution.
A 100min documentary, Ryan White is the Director and Producer who most recently directed The Keepers, a 7-part Emmy-nominated documentary series for Netflix, and HBO's The Case Against 8, which won the Directing Award at Sundance and was shortlisted for the Academy Award. White's additional films include Serena (Epix), Good Ol' Freda (Magnolia Pictures), and Pelada (PBS, Cinetic).
Born Karola Ruth Siegel on 4 June 1928 in Wiesenfeld, Germany to parents Irma and Julius Siegel,Dr Ruth is an only child. Her father was taken away by the Nazis in 1938 leaving her mother and grandmother to care for her. As tensions and Nazi violence grew, Karola was sent on a Kinder Transport (an organised rescue effort that took place during the nine months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War), to Switzerland where she lived in an orphanage at the age of eleven. When correspondence halted between her mother, grandmother and her in 1941, she knew she'd never hear from them again.
This documentary charts the life of young Karola, very much alone in the world, torn from her parents at a very young age. Yet, much like the British keeping a stiff upper lip, she adheres to the tradition of not crying in public and navigates her life in a positive way in spite of adversities. From the onset it's clear that Dr Ruth has always had a thirst for learning and absorbs everything like a sponge. From the time she was growing up when female orphans were not allowed to further their education, she learned secondhand through a fellow male orphan who snuck home textbooks to her. She would soak up everything and continue to evolve in her education.
Married three times and a mother of two, as much as Dr Ruth loves to learn, she loves to educate everyone she comes into contact with. It is clear that she strongly believes education is the most important thing in life. From being trained as a scout and sniper because of her diminutive height of 4'7" and getting wounded; to becoming America's foremost sex therapist, Dr Ruth has collected an armful of degrees and played a leading role in education in both Paris to where she moved in 1950, and the United States where she immigrated to in 1956.
If you're going to take anything away from this documentary, it is that of an unstoppable woman who continues to lead a very active life, making a difference to all whom she comes in contact with. She is determined to make a dent in this world and carve her name on it. This is a dynamo of a woman who brought sexuality to the forefront and made it OK to start a conversation about it. She dared to bare at a time when it was taboo and spoke openly about sex and abortion and didn't differentiate or discriminate between heterosexuals or homosexuals. She was ahead of her time. Dr Ruth is the personification of ageing well and continuing to contribute in this world while retaining that childlike wonderment of all that is around her. She is the wakeup call to living life to the fullest and making the most of it.