Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Sundance Doc Investigates Brett Kavanaugh When Nobody Else Would

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Director Doug Liman, auteur of blockbusters Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow, surprised Sundance and possibly sent beer-loving Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh into another one of his shrieking fits with the premiere of a different kind of project: Justice, an apparently self-funded documentary focusing on the SCOTUS crybaby.

Kavanaugh faced widespread condemnation following Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s historic testimony that he assaulted her in 1982 when they were both in high school. Liman’s film is at the spear’s edge of renewed interest in the emotional jurist, focusing less on Ford, however, and more on Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale.

Despite claiming that Kavanaugh thrust his penis in her face during a university party, as reported by The New Yorker, Ramirez’s lawyers say the FBI never followed up with witnesses who could have corroborated her account. In Liman’s doc, according to the Washington Post, Ramirez gets the opportunity to tell her story and go to Ford. Though the film includes footage of Ford’s groundbreaking testimony, at the film’s Q&A, Liman said the decision not to ask her to participate in another interview was intentional. “I felt that Dr. Ford has given so much to this country,” he said. “She’s done enough for 10 lifetimes.”

Though Justice debuted to a packed audience of close to 300 people, widely hailed as one of Sundance’s best kept secrets, now Liman is saying the documentary might not actually be finished. According to Deadline, Liman spoke at a Q&A following the premiere, saying “I thought the film was done… I thought I was off the hook. I’m in Sundance, I thought, I can sell the movie.” These best laid plans have been complicated, however, by the fact that the filmmaking team has been inundated with an onslaught of new tips, all which began a half hour after the film was announced. Plans are currently underway to start investigating, filming, and incorporating new footage. 

Liman’s fear of retaliation against crew members apparently contributed to the shroud of secrecy surrounding Justice’s debut, though Sundance head programmer Kim Yutani said, “We always have something up our sleeve,” when announcing the future, as reported by the Hollywood Reporter. Producer Amy Herdy, meanwhile, spoke of her hopes that the film “triggers outrage, and an investigation with subpoena powers,” according to Deadline.

In a statement Liman made crediting the investigative team and “the brave souls who trusted us with their stories,” according to the Reporter, he goes on to explain, “The film examines our judicial process and the institutions behind it, highlighting bureaucratic missteps and political power grabs that continue to have an outsized impact on our nation today.” 

Though Justice is Liman’s first documentary, his exposure to the intricacies of the legal world is not new. The son of renowned lawyer Arthur L. Liman, the filmmaker also sits on the advisory board of the Legal Action Center and the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program at Yale Law School, the same law school Kavanaugh himself attended. According to the Washington Post, he told Sundance viewers he first started thinking about a potential film while watching the Kavanaugh hearings in 2018, “knowing that something very wrong was happening.”

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