Secret Brett Kavanaugh Documentary ‘Justice’ Debuts At Sundance: Here’s What To Know

Topline

Filmmaker Doug Liman’s documentary on the controversial appointment and sexual assault claims against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh—kept quiet before it’s surprise premiere at the Sundance Film Festival Friday—has sparked a lot of buzz and criticism for its examination of the allegations, including a previously unreported one.

Key Facts

Sundance announced this week that Liman’s feature-length documentary “Justice” would premiere in a special screening at the festival Friday night—a surprise last-minute addition more than a month after it announced its 2023 lineup.

The film centers on Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings to the bench in 2018, and the multiple sexual assault allegations he faced, including Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony claiming the Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982, but also a second sexual assault allegation by Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh at Yale University.

It also includes a new audio recording from Max Stier, CEO of Washington D.C. nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and a dorm mate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale, the Daily Beast reported, in which he corroborates Ramirez’ allegations and presents a new claim that a group of soccer players at Yale forced a female classmate, who is not identified in the film, to hold a drunk Kavanaugh’s genitals.

In the film, Ramirez also said an inebriated Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at school, the Daily Beast reported, and that she bottled up memories of the event until she was approached by New Yorker contributing writer Ronan Farrow, who wrote about the allegation in 2018.

According to Stier, Kavanaugh was urged by a group of classmates after he had exposed himself to Ramirez, to do it again, the Daily Beast reported.

Kavanagauh has repeatedly denied past allegations, calling them “vicious and false,” and has not responded to the film (Forbes has reached out for comment and will provide updates if there is one).

Surprising Fact

Liman, who directed comedies like “Swingers” (1996) and blockbuster action movies including “The Bourne Identity” (2002) and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (2005), reportedly used non-disclosure agreements with everyone working on the project and financed the film on his own in order to keep the production of his documentary debut under wraps, telling the Hollywood Reporter: “If you want to know who put the money up for the movie, look no further than me.”

Crucial Quote

Speaking at a news conference at Sundance, in Park City, Utah, on Thursday, Liman said the documentary focuses on “bureaucratic missteps and political power grabs that continue to have an outsized impact on our nation today,” adding in a question-and-answer forum: “This is the kind of movie where people are terrified.” Producer Amy Herdy, who had previously produced “The Hunting Ground” and “On the Record,” said she believes Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Ford, and that it “points to a pattern.”

Chief Critic

Reviews of the film have so far been mixed. In one review, Variety lamented “Justice” appears to be “entirely one-sided,” and lacks an “explosive new revelation,” calling the film an “exercise in preaching to the choir,” while the Hollywood Reporter asked, “Where’s the news?” IndieWire, however, lauded the documentary as “breathtaking,” arguing it should compel the FBI to reopen its investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh.

Key Background

Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had stepped down from the bench after 30 years. His confirmation hearings by the Senate, however, were mired in controversy after Ford’s allegation came to light, with Ford testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kavanaugh, a former circuit court judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C., admitted he “drank beer” in college, but denied the allegations, while an FBI investigation into the claims as part of its background check on Kavanaugh found “no corroboration of the allegations” from Ford and Ramirez. Following heavy criticism from Democrats that the probe was insufficient and failed to contact witnesses, however, a group of Democratic senators wrote a 2021 letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, blasting the investigation as “politically constrained and perhaps fake,” and calling for congressional oversight over the probe.

Further Reading

‘People are terrified’: Inside the premiere of Sundance’s surprise Brett Kavanaugh doc (Los Angeles Times)

Sundance documentary reveals new allegations against Supreme Court justice (Salt Lake Tribune)

How Doug Liman Directed a Brett Kavanaugh FBI Investigation Doc in Secret (The Hollywood Reporter)

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