The big news on Sundance’s opening day was the addition of justice, an investigative documentary notable as Major League director Doug Liman’s first foray into non-fiction filmmaking, and for the fact that its existence had been kept secret for over a year, with all participants signing non-disclosure agreements . But for anyone who has followed the Supreme Court hearings of Brett Kavanaugh and the shameful treatment of Christine Blasey Ford, who came forward with attempted rape allegations when they were in high school together in the early ’80s, there will be being very few here that comes close to an earth-shattering revelation. Sure, the outrage still stings, but where’s the news?
Liman and his producer and writer Amy Herdy spoke after the film’s premiere about hoping it could lead to action and lead to “a real investigation with subpoena powers.” But with Kavanaugh now ensconced in a lifelong seat on the Supreme Court, it’s hard to imagine anything moving the needle here.
It comes down to
Little we didn’t already know.
Those who found Ford’s testimony credible and shocked by the bullying she was subjected to by Republican senators — not to mention the hate mail and threats to her family’s safety from Trump fanatics — will be disgusted. Those willing to ignore the evidence that the evasively writhing, performatively outraged Kavanaugh was unfit to serve will cling to that view, albeit without many new reinforcements.
justice spews out information that was largely already in the public sphere, so its main purpose will likely be as a for-the-record recap albeit a workmanish one blown up here and there with generically ominous music to depict dark machinations at the highest levels of to suggest to the government. Big surprise.
We don’t need a repeat of Donald Trump mocking Ford’s testimony at one of his rallies to be reminded of the White House’s disrespect at the time for the entire trial, and by extension, for all victims of assault. The “boys to be boys” firings remain reprehensible, as do the words of those who wonder why a man’s entire career is ruined for something he did as a child. But none of that is new.
To the film’s benefit, it provides compelling context from clinical and forensic psychologists about how trauma-related memory works, adding credence not only to Ford’s allegations, but also to those of second-in-command Deborah Ramirez, who came forward during the nomination process with her story. of Kavanaugh exposing himself to her while they were at Yale.
Ramirez appears extensively here, telling her story with courage and candor. The fact that she was a triple minority at white male-dominated Yale—a biracial woman who didn’t come from wealth—makes her memories of humiliation at a drunken campus party more disturbing, with Kavanaugh’s vicious laugh still lingering in her memory.
While much of Ramirez’s experience was revealed in Ronan Farrow’s New Yorker article, Liman’s film goes into great detail, indicating that Kavanaugh’s circle got hold of other Yale alumni present at the incident and intimidated them into silence. Since a text message referring to contact with Kavanaugh predates the article by two months, the Supreme Court nominee appears to have committed perjury in testimony in which he stated that Farrow’s piece was the first he heard of it. Then again, is anyone really surprised at this point?
What’s more unexpected is Ford’s participation in justice is limited to an opening shot in which she is partially out of frame and asks Liman about his ultimate goal with the project. With everything Ford had to go through to get everything swept under the carpet by Republicans determined to confirm Kavanaugh’s nomination at all costs, it might make sense that she chose to keep her distance. Still, seeing Ford back on the stand, if nothing else, serves to refresh the memory of what a mockery of, well, justice the proceedings actually were.
Liman and his investigative team deserve credit for exposing the extent to which the FBI were puppets of the Trump administration, severely limiting their investigations, ignoring the vast majority of pertinent information collected through a tip line, and only a handful Kavanaugh messages provided. related documents to the White House. Shockingly, for example, no attempt was made to interview Ramirez or the other Yale alumni seen here with incriminating memories of Kavanaugh.
The most substantial new evidence the film uncovers is the testimony of Max Stier, a respected nonpartisan figure in Washington, founder and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. Although Taurus does not appear on camera, in a recording he states that he witnessed sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh during a drunken slumber party involving another woman, who chose to remain anonymous after witnessing Ford being treated. Once again, the FBI refused to follow up on Taurus’ allegations.
But that doesn’t exactly make for a scorching exposé. Considering that justice was touted at Sundance as a strong indictment of a corrupt system, it turns out to be a bit of a non-event.