Sundance’s Brett Kavanaugh documentary doesn’t drop bombshells, but it does do something just as important.

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On its opening night on Thursday, Sundance tossed a grenade into the carefully planned times of festival-goers. The following night, they announced, the festival would host the world premiere of JusticeDoug Liman’s documentary about Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

just like last year Navalnientered the documentary competition 24 hours early, the sudden appearance of Justice it gave the film a sense of urgency and mystery. What kind of explosive revelations could this movie contain that would need to be kept under wraps until the last minute?

After standing in a crowded tent for an hour and arriving at the screening packed, I can answer that question with: not much. The general consensus is that Justice, at least in this 85-minute “festival cut”, is devoid of bombshells. A call to the FBI tip line from Kavanaugh’s former Yale classmate Max Stier gets the swashbuckling treatment, with a hidden camera and digitally disguised voice leading us to a handheld recorder playing the statement. de Stier from whom he overheard others at school discussing Kavanaugh’s sexual assault of classmate Deborah Ramirez, who alleges that Kavanaugh drunkenly shoved his penis into her face in front of several witnesses. (Kavanaugh has denied all the allegations, and he and Stier have declined to speak to the filmmakers.) But Stier’s advice and Ramírez’s accusations were widely informed about in 2019, and just hearing your actual call for the first time doesn’t amount to anything close to a smoking gun.

Then again, is that the standard by which a documentary like this should be judged, a standard by which the vast majority of issue-based nonfiction films fall short? Not even the film’s directors agreed. After the screening, Liman, the the bourne identity director who made his documentary debut with Justice, which he also financed himself, admitted that “We live in a climate where it doesn’t matter what we put into this movie.” (Liman’s father, Arthur Liman, was lead counsel for the Iran-Contra investigation when the future filmmaker was in his early 20s, so he’s no stranger to congressional investigations). less important than securing his Supreme Court nomination—would not be swayed by Justice even in the unlikely event that they did happen to see it, and those who believed their accusers need no further confirmation. “In a way I came to the answer for myself that maybe the truth matters,” Liman continued. “A hundred years from now, this movie will exist, and maybe that’s it.”

But Amy Herdy, the investigative journalist who led the film’s investigative team and has worked as an investigator on numerous sexual assault films, including the hunting ground, in the recordY Allen vs. Farrow, immediately took issue with Liman’s philosophical bent. “Yeah, I’m not happy about that, with all due respect, Doug,” she said. “I hope this sparks outrage. I hope this triggers action. I hope this triggers a further investigation with real subpoena powers.” One of the reasons for the film’s short length was the decision to leave out any Kavanaugh accusers whose allegations could not be substantiated, and because Ford, who appears at the edge of the frame in the opening shot as Liman tries to coax her into of the film, evidently decided not to participate. (His indelible testimony of her in the Senate is, of course, included.) But Herdy said that half an hour after the film’s existence was announced to the world, new tips were pouring in. Justicewebsite ofand they could well end up becoming part of the final version.

Justice gives Ramírez, who said in 2018 that she was willing to testify before Congress but was never called, an opportunity to speak at length, and for psychological trauma experts to explain why her memory of the assault can be accurately detailed in some cases and vague in others. One of the most damning points in the film is that Republican attorney Rachel Mitchell, who pounced on minor errors and inconsistencies in Blasey Ford’s testimony in an attempt to undermine his credibility as a witness, had worked on enough assault cases. sexual as a prosecutor to understand exactly how traumatic memory works, and knowingly used that experience to attack Blasey Ford instead. Her (At one point, she questioned Blasey Ford about whether she had actually had a conversation on the floor below the room where Kavanaugh allegedly groped her, or whether she just knew people were talking.) And while Blasey Ford herself doesn’t appear, several of her childhood friends, who also grew up with Kavanaugh, stand on camera and make it clear that Kavanaugh lied at least under congressional oath about the extent and excess of his drunkenness in high school and college, an act that in itself should disqualify him from petitioning the nation’s highest court.

Whether this is important depends largely on where you set the standard. Based on this version of Justice, the film stands little chance of convincing the FBI to reopen its investigation, let alone that investigation yielding anything that could affect Kavanaugh’s place in court. But it’s an almost impossible goal to expect a movie to succeed where the entire apparatus of the Democratic Party failed. What it could do, especially in an expanded and strengthened version, is help ensure that Kavanaugh never escapes what Ramirez and Blasey Ford say he did, that every ruling and public statement is seen through the lens of the person they say he did. is. That might not matter in a hundred years, but it might. now.

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