Park City, Utah – A new documentary examines sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and questions the depth of the 2018 FBI investigation.
Filmmaker Doug Liman’s “Justice” premiered Friday night at the Sundance Film Festival to a packed theater surrounded by armed guards.
Produced under intense secrecy, the film focuses on allegations made by Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez, which were detailed in a 2018 New Yorker article describe. Ramirez alleges that at a party with friends when she was a freshman in 1983, Kavanaugh pulled down his pants and extended his penis toward her. Kavanaugh has denied those claims. “Justice” also played a tape of a tip-off to the FBI by another Yale classmate, Max Stier, describing similar incidents that the FBI had never investigated.
New York Times reporters Robin Pogebrin and Kate Kelly detailed the Stier report in their 2019 book, “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation.” But its details have come under scrutiny. The Times edited the story after it was posted online and before it went to print, adding that the book reported that the woman who allegedly took part in the incident declined to be interviewed and that her friend said she did not recall the incident. .
Steele was not interviewed directly for the film and declined the filmmaker’s request to comment on the content. The Stier tape was provided to the filmmakers by an unnamed individual whose voice was manipulated for anonymity.
Kavanaugh was sworn in as the 114th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2018 after a narrow 50-48 vote following a heated debate on sexual misconduct. He strenuously denies allegations by Christine Blasey Ford that he sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.
Many of the people mentioned in the film, from Kavanaugh himself to several of Ramirez’s friends who were said to be there, also declined to speak or never responded.
“Justice” was particularly critical of the FBI’s investigation following the hearing. Through FOIA requests, the filmmakers discovered that approximately 4,500 uninvestigated tips were sent to the tip line.
A friend of Ramirez’s from Yale who was interviewed for the film provided a text message in which a mutual friend admitted contacting “Kavanaugh’s people” and being involved with Ramirez’s Misremember the narrative of the incident.
Blasey Ford, who only appears in the new footage during the first few moments of “Justice,” asks Liman, the filmmaker known for “Swingers” and “Bourne Bourne,” why he made the film — and he didn’t Answer the question completely.
In a Q&A after the film, Liman said he was outraged after seeing her testimony in 2018. The film, which they paid for themselves, has been kept under wraps. Everyone signed non-disclosure agreements, and they even provided code names for those who agreed to participate, Liman said. He said people were “scared” and that those who came forward were “heroes”.
Much of the focus is on telling Ramirez’s story—where she came from, how she got into Yale, and who she is and was. Several academics and lawyers who specialize in trauma help explain why memories of traumatic events reliably fracture, and how prosecutors exploit those gaps.
“Justice”‘s surprise selection to the festival was announced on Thursday, the festival’s first day, but it quickly became one of the most anticipated films with more than 100 entries. At least part of the reason is that a film like “Justice” debuts at Sundance to generate buzz and get distributors. As many of the lawyers in the film say, the key is whether Kavanaugh perjured himself under oath.
Asked what he hopes will happen when audiences see “Justice,” Liman said, “I feel like the work ends with the end of the movie, and what happens after that is beyond my control.”
Standing next to him was his producer, Amy Hardy, who disagreed. Hardy said she hoped it would spark outrage and lead to “a real subpoena investigation.”
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr at www.twitter.com/ldbahr.
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