‘I hope this sparks outrage’: Brett Kavanaugh’s surprise documentary premiere at Sundance | Sundance 2023

A secretly made documentary about 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 calendar, aims to shed light not only on the women who have accused Kavanaugh, a candidate for Donald Trump, but also on the failure of the FBI’s investigation into the allegations.

“I hope this sparks outrage,” producer Amy Herdy said in a Q&A after the premiere in Park City, Utah. “Hopefully this will trigger action, hopefully this will trigger further investigation with real subpoena powers.”

The film provides a timeline of the allegations, initially that Kavanaugh was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexual assault when she was 15 and he was 17. She alleged that he held her down on a bed and groped her, and tried to tear her clothes. before she runs away. Kavanaugh was also accused of sexual misconduct by Deborah Ramirez, who alleged he exposed himself and pushed his penis into her face without her consent at a college party.

Kavanaugh denies the allegations. He declined requests to take part in the documentary.

The first scene features Ford, half off camera, being interviewed by the film’s director Doug Liman, whose credits include Mr and Mrs Smith and The Bourne Identity. Justice features a number of interviews with journalists, lawyers, psychologists and people who knew Ford and Ramirez.

“It was the kind of movie where people are terrified,” Liman said. “The people who chose to participate in the film are heroes.”

In the film, Ramirez, who previously told his story to Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker, also shares his story on camera. Ramirez is being called someone ‘they worked hard so people wouldn’t find out’, her story never got the space it deserved until long after Kavanaugh was confirmed in court in October 2018 .

Ramirez details a Catholic upbringing, before explaining that her high grades brought her to Yale when the university was slowly diversifying its student body in the mid-1980s. In addition to being admitted only 15 years after the admission of women, Ramirez was also biracial and working class. “My mother was worried,” she says, moved, in the documentary.

Her friends at the time called her “sweet and Bambi-like” and “innocent to a fault”, but Ramirez tried to fit in by becoming a cheerleader and drinking with her peers. This, she says, brought her into the orbit of Kavanaugh, who came from a privileged family and was known as a heavy drinker at the time (he is mentioned in the film as someone who was generally ” drunker than everyone”). Ramirez recounts the alleged event, when she was intoxicated and, she says, forced, without her consent, to touch Kavanaugh’s penis, which he had placed near her face.

Deborah Ramirez
Deborah Ramirez. Photography: AP

The film then details how circles around Ramirez and Kavanaugh responded, showing text messages of a chat as Ramirez’s allegations were about to go public, from a mutual friend whom Kavanaugh asked to go public to defend him. Another friend calls it “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 remove their names from the statement.

Ramirez’s lawyers say they contacted Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who participated in Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, to explain what happened to him. The next day, Flake called to delay confirmation and insist on a week-long FBI investigation.

But the film details how the FBI failed to call the many witnesses recommended by Ramirez’s attorneys. Footage is shown of the filmmakers meeting a confidential source who plays the tape of Kavanaugh’s classmate Max Stier, now a prominent figure in Washington who runs a nonprofit, who allegedly witnessed Kavanaugh involved in a similar act of alleged drunken exposure with a female student at a Yale dorm party. The woman chose to remain anonymous and this is the first time this recording has been heard.

This was done during the week the FBI was investigating Kavanaugh, and although Stier informed them, they did not speak to him. “You don’t talk to this guy, you don’t talk to anybody,” Liman said during the Q&A.

The FBI tip line that has been set up is called “a graveyard,” with 4,500 tips sent directly to the White House rather than being investigated. This is called another “concealment”.

The filmmakers also spoke to other accusers who alleged misconduct but could not be included in the film. “We spoke to people who had other allegations, and we were very careful and thorough, and that’s not to disbelieve them – but the stories you see here are ones you can corroborate,” Herdy told the audience.

Justice has been served in secret over the past year, with NDAs signed by everyone involved. The project was self-financed by Liman, making its documentary debut. He told The Hollywood Reporter that the Supreme Court had “special meaning” to him, as his father was a lawyer and activist and his brother was a federal judge. He was frustrated by the FBI’s investigation into Kavanaugh which “never happened”, and enlisted the help of renowned documentary producers Liz Garbus and Herdy, both of whom specialize in films about the assault allegations. sexual, to do the work he considered unfinished, so barely begun.

During the Q&A, he expressed the importance of secrecy, speaking of “the machinery that is set up against anyone who dares to speak out” and an awareness that this machinery would be activated on the film if released to the public.

“There would have been some sort of injunction,” he said. “This film would not have been shown here.”

It was only screened to senior Sundance brass on Wednesday before being officially announced on Thursday. It premiered in a sold-out theater on Friday.

In recent years, the festival has become a regular home for a number of investigative documentaries about alleged sexual predators in the public eye. The likes of Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby, Russell Simmons and former Sundance mainstay Harvey Weinstein have all been spotlighted.

Since Justice’s announcement, Herdy has confirmed that they’ve been “getting more tips,” which started arriving just 30 minutes after the press release was issued. Liman added that the film, which is seeking a distributor, may now need to be extended and re-released.

Herdy added: “It’s not over.”

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