a collective eyebrow was raised when the Sundance Film Festival 2023 announced a last-minute addition to the lineup: Justicea documentary film investigating the allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice brett kavanaugh. That film marked the first documentary directed by Doug Limanthe man behind swingers Y The Bourne Identityand was produced by Amy Herdy, a former journalist and key researcher on documentaries Allen vs. Farrow Y in the record, only aroused curiosity even more. Would the film contain new claims against Kavanaugh beyond what arose during and around the explosive hearing of him in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee? Or perhaps offer new evidence to corroborate accounts of women who had already come forward against Kavanaugh alleging a variety of sexual misconduct, including christine blasey ford, Debora Ramirez and julie swetnick?
Justice debuted on January 20 before a crowd of 295 at Sundance’s Park Avenue Theatre, including a few dozen members of the press. Liman had his entire team sign NDAs and financed the project himself to keep it completely secret.
And the film raises more questions than it answers.
It begins with Liman sitting on a sofa across from Christine Blasey Ford, who asks him why he, a Hollywood director, wanted to make this movie. Only the back of Ford’s head is visible, and she does not appear on camera again, save for archival footage of powerful testimony from her. In a post-screening question-and-answer session, Liman said he chose not to include any new footage of Ford to spare him additional scrutiny and threats. Swetnick, meanwhile, is not mentioned.
Most of the film’s attention is focused on Deborah Ramírez, who saying the new yorker‘s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer that while he was a freshman at Yale in 1983, “Kavanaugh exposed himself at a drunken bedroom party, shoved his penis into her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent while pushing it.” She repeats those accusations during an interview sitting in Justice. (Kavanaugh has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct.)
While the FBI spoke with Ramirez as part of its week-long “limited scope” investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by Trump candidate Kavanaugh, it ultimately concluded that it found “no corroboration of the allegations.” [of sexual misconduct]”, which led to the conservative justice’s lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, Bureau agents admitted they did not even speak to several people who corroborated their account or had other stories about Kavanaugh’s behavior at Yale.
The biggest revelation in Justice refers to Max Stier, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s. According to the book The education of Brett Kavanaughfor New York Times Reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, Stier, who heads the Association for Public Service, a prominent nonprofit (and nonpartisan) organization in Washington, DC, informed the senators and the FBI that she “saw Mr. Kavanaugh pants down in a different drunken place.” dorm party, where friends of his shoved his penis into a student’s hand” but were not followed up by the FBI. Justice goes a step further, broadcasting an audio recording of Stier’s account, which the filmmakers say was entrusted to them by an anonymous source. (Stier declined to speak to the filmmakers, as did Kavanaugh.)
“This is something I reported to my wife years ago,” Stier says, before going into detail about how he heard a “firsthand” story of Kavanaugh’s friends asking a very inebriated young woman to “hold his penis.” ” during a bedroom. party. He also recalls on audio an alleged episode he overheard in which a drunken Kavanaugh attempted to insert her penis into the mouth of a young woman at a dorm room party while she was nearly passed out on the floor from drinking.
in another part of Justice, several of Ramirez’s Yale classmates express frustration with the FBI for not interviewing them, even suggesting that Kavanaugh’s team was contacting his Yale classmates during the investigation to try to point them in his direction. A series of text messages are shown in the film that appear to show Kavanaugh’s Yale classmates discussing how members of Kavanaugh’s circle had contacted them about their memories regarding Ramirez’s allegations. Since Kavanaugh insisted that he did no such thing during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the film maintains that he committed perjury.
More than anything, however, Justice it feels like a signal flare for future accusers and witnesses to Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct to come forward. The 83-minute version shown at Sundance was told to the press that it was not a final cut, and Herdy and Liman told festival-goers during their post-screening Q&A that they had received new advice since they announced the documentary on January 19 and that the film, and its investigation, is not over yet.
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