- A new documentary about misconduct allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh premiered on Friday.
- The movie was a last-minute addition to Sundance and was being kept under wraps until Thursday.
- The filmmakers said they began getting new tips on Kavanaugh right after the movie was announced.
After a surprise announcement that a documentary focusing on sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh would premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, more clues began to pour in, according to the filmmakers.
Programmers at the independent film festival, which is held annually in Park City, Utah, revealed Thursday that director Doug Liman’s film “Justice” will screen Friday night. The film focuses on the allegations initially made against Kavanaugh in 2018, when he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump.
The film revealed additional details about the allegations against Kavanaugh. It covers incidents alleged by accusers, including Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before Congress in 2018, and Deborah Ramirez, Kavanaugh’s former Yale classmate.
The film also includes new details of allegations about a separate incident at Yale involving a different, unnamed woman who refused to be a part of the film. Those allegations were provided to the FBI by another Yale alumnus, Max Stier, during his investigation of Kavanaugh; according to the film, more than 4,500 leads were provided to the FBI, with the most credible leads being passed on to the White House.
The filmmakers acquired a recording of Stier sharing his recollection of the incident, which provides one of the most gripping segments of the documentary. “That material like that was just protected and sent to the White House and never pursued, for me that was the most shocking discovery” of the film, Liman said during a question-and-answer session after the screening.
Liman, best known for directing movies like “Swingers” and “The Bourne Identity,” fielded questions about the film along with Amy Herdy, his co-producer who led the film’s investigative team.
“I thought the movie was done, but it looks like…we’re not going home,” Liman said. “The team is staying at it.”
When asked what he originally expected to come out of the film (additional investigations or other impacts), Liman said that what happens after the film is “so out of my control,” adding, “We live in a climate where No matter what we put into this movie, the people who support the status quo are likely to continue to support it, and I kind of came to the answer myself: maybe the truth matters, it matters now, it will matter in the future, and maybe that’s it.”
For Herdy, that’s not enough, he said. “I hope this triggers outrage, I hope this triggers action, I hope this triggers further investigation with real subpoena powers.”
The filmmakers also said they kept the film under wraps because they thought spreading the word could jeopardize their work. Liman cited “the machinery that was set in motion to prevent anyone from daring to speak.” Had the news leaked, he added: “There would have been some kind of court order. This film would not have been shown here.”
Herdy said that code names were even used for the subjects and that everyone who worked on the film or was interviewed by the filmmakers signed a confidentiality agreement.
The filmmakers interviewed about 20 people, including friends of Blasey Ford from his current circle and from his adolescence, friends of Ramírez, journalists, and psychologists who described the characteristics and impact of traumatic memories. Blasey Ford speaks briefly with Liman at the film’s opening, and there are extensive and emotional interviews with Ramírez.
Liman’s interest in making his first documentary arose, he said, in 2018 during congressional hearings before Kavanaugh’s confirmation. She previously told the Hollywood Reporter that “the Supreme Court, which is sacred to all of us, has special meaning to me.” Her father, Arthur L. Liman, was a prominent lawyer and activist, and her brother, Lewis, was once a clerk of the Supreme Court and is now a federal judge in the Southern District of New York.
The film is looking for a distributor but, as Liman and Herdy noted on Saturday, it may still expand as they continue to investigate the new advice they’ve received.