Doug Liman on Making His Brett Kavanaugh Doc: “The Truth Matters”
“I hope this sparks a real investigation with real subpoena power,” Justice producer Amy Herdy said at the film’s Sundance premiere.
Sundance’s biggest surprise yet is Justice, a documentary from director Doug Liman that investigates the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Liman said in a Q&A at the film’s Friday night premiere that he knew “something very wrong is happening” and that he felt a sense of outrage as he watched Kavanaugh’s 2018 confirmation hearing — that the making of this film started on this time goes back.
Liman told the crowd at the Park Avenue Theater in Sundance that it was crucial to keep the film’s production completely secret and, as filming progressed, realized that “the machinery that was put in place to prevent anyone from speaking out reports”, this ultimately could be aimed at them and the issues involved. Liman appeared onstage with producer Amy Herdy, who explained that all attendees had signed a non-disclosure agreement and that even codenames for the film’s themes were envisaged. They said “justice” would never have been realized if there had not been that caution.
“There would have been some sort of injunction. That film would not have been shown here,” Liman said.
But in terms of why the film had to be made and what the filmmakers expect from it, Liman acknowledged that no matter what the film says, many people on one side of the political spectrum will do whatever it takes to avoid it.
“Then I came to the answer myself: The truth counts. It matters now, it matters in the future,” Liman said. “Maybe that’s it.”
“I’m not happy with that, sorry,” Herdy interjected. “I hope this sparks outrage, I hope this sparks action, and I hope this sparks a real investigation with real subpoena power.”
Kavanaugh, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump in 2018, was the subject of a controversial series of confirmation hearings when he was accused of sexually assaulting Professor Christine Blasey Ford when they were both high school students in the 1980s. Blasey Ford testified before Congress, and three other women later accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct (although one later recanted her story). Kavanaugh denied the allegations during his own testimony, and Kavanaugh was appointed to the country’s highest court along the party line.
However, “justice” arose in part due to revelations that the FBI had received an additional 4,500 leads related to Kavanaugh’s nomination, which were forwarded to the White House but never properly investigated. Liman said many of these went practically straight to the “bin,” and in the filmmakers’ attempts to validate the tips, many of them were heavily edited. However, Liman’s film was also self-funded, with the director personally funding investigative efforts by Herdy’s team. And he acknowledged that given their own limited resources, there was still much more to be done.
“It’s just a few people self-funding to uncover what we uncovered. Imagine what might be found if someone with real subpoena authority started looking into it,” he said.
“Justice” focuses heavily on the allegations made by Debbie Ramirez, who previously accused Kavanaugh of embarrassing her at a Yale dorm party. Ramirez is given a chance to tell her story in detail, and Herdy said the accounts that appear in the film were those that the filmmakers were able to confirm from other sources, but that left out many whose stories the filmmakers could not independently confirm.
The film also includes scathing testimonies from a politician named Max Stier, who said he saw Kavanaugh perform a separate act of sexual assault on a freshman soccer player at Yale, and the film even includes audio from Stier talking about spoke about the incident (Kavanaugh did not comment on the filmmakers directly).
Liman was referring to everyone who chose to attend and publicly put their names behind allegations against Kavanaugh as heroes. But now that news of the film has broken out, Liman says the current version of the film, shown at Sundance, remains a festival cut, and new tips already arriving could extend beyond tonight affect the movie.
“I thought I was off the hook,” Liman said. “Yesterday Amy said we’re not done yet. We’ll be back on Monday morning.”
Liman also addressed why Blasey Ford isn’t the focus of the film.
“I felt that Dr. Ford gave so much to the country,” Liman said. “She did her part. She’s done more than her part for the country…she’s done enough for 10 lifetimes.”
Justice was also executive produced by documentary heavyweights Dan Cogan and Liz Garbus of Story Syndicate, and the film is an acquisition title as represented by CAA.
“Sundance is a festival for independent films looking for buyers, and that’s what we came up with [Kavanaugh] might buy it,” Liman said.
Additional reporting by Christian Blauvelt.
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https://www.indiewire.com/2023/01/doug-liman-brett-kavanaugh-documentary-justice-sundance-1234802310/ Doug Liman on Making His Brett Kavanaugh Doc: “The Truth Matters”