Eyebrows knit together raised when the 2023 Sundance Film Festival announced a last-minute addition to the lineup: Justice, a documentary that examines allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. That the film showed the first documentary directed by Doug Liman, the man behind Swingers and The Bourne Identityand created by Amy Herdy, a former journalist and critical thinker Allen v. Farrow and On the Record, it became even more curious. Could the film contain new allegations against Kavanaugh beyond those that emerged during and around his explosive hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee? Or provide new evidence to support the accounts of women who have already come forward against Kavanaugh alleging various atrocities, including Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick?
Justice premiered on January 20 to a crowd of 295 people at Sundance’s Park Avenue Theatre, including a few members of the press. Liman made all of his employees sign NDAs and funded the project to keep it under wraps.
And the film raises more questions than it answers.
It opens with Liman sitting on a sofa across from Christine Blasey Ford, who asks him why he, a Hollywood director, wanted to make this film. Only the back of Ford’s head is visible, and he is not seen on-camera again, save for the transcript of his powerful testimony. In a behind-the-scenes Q&A, Liman said he chose not to include the new Ford in order to avoid scrutiny and threats. Swetnick, however, goes without saying.
Most of the attention of the film is related to Deborah Ramirez, who narrated New YorkerRonan Farrow and Jane Mayer who was still a freshman at Yale in 1983, “Kavanaugh exposed himself at a drunken slumber party, put his penis in her face, and made her touch him without his consent as he pushed her away.” He repeats these statements during a sit-down interview Justice. (Kavanaugh denied all allegations of adultery.)
When the FBI spoke to Ramirez as part of their week-long investigation into Trump’s impeachment against Kavanaugh, they concluded that there was “no evidence of the allegations.” [of sexual misconduct]”following the judge’s permanent appointment to the Supreme Court, bureau officials were unable to speak with several people who supported his account or had other concerns about Kavanaugh’s behavior at Yale.
It’s mostly shown inside Justice related to Max Stier, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s. According to the book Brett Kavanaugh’s educationby New York Times journalists Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, Stier, who heads the Partnership for Public Service, a prominent non-profit organization (and non-union) in Washington, DC, informed the senators and the FBI that “they saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student,” but the FBI didn’t go after him. Justice goes one step further, releasing an audio recording of Stier’s account, which the filmmakers say was given to them by an unknown person. (Stier declined to speak with the filmmakers, as did Kavanaugh.)
“This is something I told my wife years ago,” says Stier, before going into detail about how he heard the “first-hand” story of Kavanaugh’s friends asking a drunken young woman to “touch his dick” during sleep. party. He also remembers on audio one time he heard when a drunk Kavanaugh tried to put his penis in the mouth of a young woman at a dorm party when she was about to fall down drinking.
Somewhere inside Justice, Ramirez’s Yale classmates express their frustration with the FBI for failing to interview them, and even reveal that Kavanaugh’s team contacted Yale classmates during the interrogation to try to lead them in his direction. A series of messages shown in the film appear to show Kavanaugh’s Yale classmates discussing how members of Kavanaugh’s inner circle approached them about their views on Ramirez’s crimes. Since Kavanaugh insisted he did no such thing during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the film argues that he lied.
Above all, however, Justice it feels like a burning signal for future accusers and witnesses of Kavanaugh’s alleged immorality to come forward. The press was told that the 83-minute version screened at Sundance was not the final one, and Herdy and Liman told festival-goers during the screening Q&A that they had received new tips since announcing the documentary on January 19, and that the film – and their investigation – was not over.