A secretly produced documentary expanding on the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Justice, a last-minute addition to the schedule, aims to shine a spotlight not only on the women who accused Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s nominee, but also on the failed FBI investigation into the allegations.
“I hope this sparks outrage,” producer Amy Hurdy said in a Q&A after the premiere in Park City, Utah. “I hope this leads to action, and I hope this leads to additional investigation with real subpoena powers.”
The film provides a timeline of allegations, initially that Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when she was 15 and he was 17. She alleged that he carried her onto a bed and groped her, and tried to rip her clothes off. before you walk away. Kavanaugh has also been accused of sexual misconduct by Deborah Ramirez, who claims he exposed himself and pushed his penis in her face without her consent at a college party.
Kavanaugh denied the allegations. Rejection of requests to participate in the documentary.
The first scene shows Ford, half off camera, interviewing the film’s director Doug Liman, whose credits include Mr. & Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Identity. Justice presents a number of interviews with journalists, lawyers, psychologists, and those who knew Ford and Ramirez.
“It was the kind of movie where people get terrified,” Lehman said. “The people who choose to be in the movie are heroes.”
In the film, Ramirez, who previously told her story to Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker, shares her story on camera. Referred to as someone who “they worked so hard for people not to know,” Ramirez wasn’t given the space she deserved until long after Kavanaugh was confirmed in court in October 2018.
Ramirez details her Catholic upbringing, before explaining that her high grades got her to Yale when the university was slowly diversifying its student body in the mid-1980s. In addition to being accepted only 15 years after women were allowed in, Ramirez was also of the working class and ethnicity. “My mom was worried,” she tells emotionally in the documentary.
Friends at the time referred to her as “sweet and Bambi-like” and “innocent”, but Ramirez tried to fit in by becoming a cheerleader and drinking with her peers. She said this brought her into the orbit of Kavanaugh, who came from a distinguished family and was known at the time to be a heavy drinker (referred to in the film as someone who usually got “more drunk than anyone else”). Ramirez recounts the alleged event, when she was drunk and said she had, without her consent, touched Kavanaugh’s penis which he placed near her face.
The film then details how the circles around Ramirez and Kavanaugh responded, showing text messages about a discussion when Ramirez’s allegations were about to go public, with Kavanaugh asking a mutual friend to sign up for his defense. Another friend refers to it as a “cover-up”.
The New Yorker included a statement from a group of students at the time in support of Kavanaugh. A year later, the film shows that two of them emailed the New Yorker to have their names removed from the statement.
Ramirez’s lawyers claim they called Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who participated in Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, to explain what happened to her. The next day, Flake called for delaying confirmation and insisting on an FBI investigation for a week.
But the film does detail how the FBI failed to call several witnesses recommended by Ramirez’s lawyers. Footage was shown of the filmmakers meeting with a confidential source playing a tape of Kavanaugh’s classmate Max Steer, now a high-profile Washington figure who runs a nonprofit, who allegedly witnessed Kavanaugh engaging in a similar act of alleged drunkenness with a female lead. A student at a party in a dorm at Yale University. The woman chose not to be identified and this is the first time this recording has been heard.
It was filmed during the week the FBI investigated Kavanaugh, and although Steer notified them, they failed to speak to him. “You’re not talking to this guy, you’re not talking to anybody,” Lyman said during a Q&A.
The FBI line of information established was referred to as a “graveyard,” as 4,500 gratuities were sent directly to the White House rather than being investigated. It is referred to as another “cover-up”.
The filmmakers also spoke to another accuser who alleged misconduct but was not included in the film. “We’ve talked to people who have other allegations, and we’ve been very careful and careful, and it’s not that we don’t believe them – but the stories you see here are the ones you can prove,” Hurdy told the audience.
The justice has been done in the strictest confidence for the past year, with all involved signing non-disclosure agreements. The project was self-financed by Lehman, first appearing in the documentary. He told The Hollywood Reporter that the Supreme Court held “special meaning” to him, as his father was a lawyer and activist and his brother was a federal judge. Frustrated by the FBI’s investigation into Kavanaugh that “never happened,” he sought the help of acclaimed documentary producers Liz Garbus and Heardy, both with specialized film experience about allegations of sexual assault, to do work he saw as unfinished, if barely started at all.
In the question-and-answer session, he expresses the importance of confidentiality, speaking of the “mechanism that has been put in place against anyone who dares to speak” and his realization that this mechanism will be triggered on film if it is made public.
“There could have been some kind of foreshadowing,” he said. “This movie wouldn’t have been shown here.”
It was only shown to senior officials at Sundance on Wednesday before it was officially announced on Thursday. It premiered to a sold-out cinema on Friday.
In the past few years, the festival has become a regular home to a number of investigative documentaries about alleged sexual predators in the public eye. One of the staples of Sundance has been spotlighted such as Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby, Russell Simmons and Harvey Weinstein.
Since the justice announcement, Hurdy has confirmed that they are “receiving more tips,” which started arriving just 30 minutes after the press release. Lehman added that the film, which is looking for a distributor, may now need to be extended and re-edited.
“It’s not over yet,” Hurdy added.