A collective eyebrow was raised when the 2023 Sundance Film Festival announced a last-minute addition to the lineup: Justice, a documentary investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. That film marked the first documentary directed by Doug Liman, the man behind Swingers and The Bourne Identityand was produced by Amy Herdy, ex-journalist and key researcher for documentaries Allen v. Farrow and On the file, only aroused further curiosity. Would the film contain any new claims against Kavanaugh beyond what emerged during and around his explosive hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee? Or perhaps offer new evidence corroborating accounts from women who had previously come forward against Kavanaugh alleging a string of sexual misconduct, including Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick?
Justice debuted on January 20 to a crowd of 295 at Sundance’s Park Avenue Theater, including a few dozen members of the press. Liman had his entire team sign NDAs and funded the project himself in order to keep it completely secret.
And the film raises more questions than it answers.
It opens with Liman sitting on a couch 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 no longer appears on camera except for archival footage of her powerful testimony. In a post-screening Q&A, Liman said he opted not to include new images of Ford in order to spare him the scrutiny and additional threats. Swetnick, meanwhile, is not mentioned.
Most of the film’s attention goes to Deborah Ramirez, who said the new yorker‘s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer that, while a freshman at Yale in 1983, “Kavanaugh had exposed himself during a drunken dorm night, shoved his penis in his face, and made him touch without his consent as she pushed him away.” She repeats these allegations in an interview with Justice. (Kavanaugh has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct.)
As the FBI spoke to Ramirez as part of their week-long, ‘limited scope’ investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by Trump nominee Kavanaugh, ultimately concluding they found ‘no corroboration allegations [of sexual misconduct]leading to the conservative justice’s lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, Bureau officials admittedly failed to speak to a number of people who either corroborated his account or had other stories about Kavanaugh’s behavior at Yale.
The biggest revelation of Justice is about Max Stier, a Yale classmate from Kavanaugh. According to the book The education of Brett Kavanaughthrough New York Times Journalists Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, Stier, who run the Partnership for Public Service, a major nonprofit (and nonpartisan) organization in Washington, D.C., informed senators and the FBI that he “saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at another drunken dorm, where friends pushed his penis into a student’s hand, but the FBI took no action on him. Justice takes it a step further by releasing an audio recording of Stier’s story, which the filmmakers say was given to them by an anonymous source. (Stier declined to speak to the filmmakers, as did Kavanaugh.)
“It’s something I reported to my wife years ago,” Stier says, before detailing how he heard a “first-hand” story from Kavanaugh’s friends asking a young woman very drunk from “holding his penis” during a dorm party. He also recalls on audio of an alleged episode he heard in which a drunk Kavanaugh attempted to insert his penis into a young woman’s mouth at a dorm party while she was almost passed out on the floor after drinking.
Elsewhere in Justice, several of Ramirez’s Yale classmates express frustration with the FBI for not interviewing them, and even suggest that Kavanaugh’s team was contacting their Yale classmates during the investigation to try to steer 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 the Ramirez allegations. Since Kavanaugh insisted he did no such thing during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the film argues that he committed perjury.
More than anything, however, Justice looks like a flare for future accusers and witnesses to Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct to come forward. Press were told the 83-minute version screened at Sundance was not a final cut, and Herdy and Liman told festival-goers during post-screening Q&A that they had received new tips since the announcement. of the documentary on January 19, and that the film – and their investigation – is not yet complete.