Park City • Director Doug Liman has learned that making his first documentary — “Justice,” about the sexual misconduct accusations made against Brett Kavanaugh before he ascended to the U.S. Supreme Court — has parallels to the action movies he has done.
Like in “The Bourne Identity,” there were some cloak-and-dagger drama behind the scenes. And as with his “Edge of Tomorrow,” in which Tom Cruise’s character kept reliving his death, Liman doesn’t know when he’ll be done with this story.
Usually, Liman said Friday night in Park City after the premiere of “Justice” at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, “the job ends with the film. What happens afterward is beyond my control.”
That job isn’t over, Liman and the film’s writer/producer, Amy Herdy, said. That’s because after festival programming director Kim Yutani announced “Justice” was a last-minute addition to Sundance’s lineup Thursday, the filmmakers said they received more tips regarding Kavanaugh and the accusations made against him by women he knew in high school and college.
The documentary recounts the accusations made by a California professor, Christina Blasey Ford, that Kavanaugh as a high-school student sexually assaulted her at a party in Maryland in 1982. Ford appears briefly in the beginning of the movie, asking Liman questions about why he wants to retell this story, but the rest of her story is told in her 2018 testimony before the U.S. Senate committee deciding on Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Liman and Herdy also detail the allegations of a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, who said Kavanaugh engaged in sexual misconduct when they were students at Yale. Ramirez’s story was uncovered by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer in The New Yorker, and refuted by Kavanaugh in his Senate testimony. Ramirez is one of the movie’s main interview subjects.
What Liman and Herdy unearthed that has not been reported widely is that an FBI investigation — prompted by a request from Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who briefly wavered on Kavanaugh’s nomination — found testimony from another Yale classmate about a third sexual misconduct accusation against Kavanaugh. That testimony, which is heard in the film, was either ignored or squelched by the Trump White House, the movie says.
In a Q&A after Friday’s screening, Liman and Herdy said “Justice” was made in secret — and that those working on it, all the way up to executive producers Dan Cogan and Liz Garbus, were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements so they wouldn’t talk about the movie. Subjects being interviewed were given code names, Herdy said.
If word had gotten out, Friday’s screening might not have happened, Liman said. “There would have been an injunction to keep the film from being shown,” he said.
The filmmakers said they expect to receive the same level of vitriol that hit Ford — who was subjected to mudslinging by Donald Trump, character assassination in partisan media and death threats.
“This is the kind of movie where people are terrified,” Liman said. “The level of repercussions that are leveled at who will dare speak out … will be turned on us.”
So far, Herdy said, they have received a letter from an attorney for someone mentioned in the movie, but “other than that, it’s been pretty quiet.”
The filmmakers are, like anyone who brings a film to Sundance, trying to find a distributor who will show it nationwide. Sundance scheduled only the one screening of the film, so the version screened Friday likely will never be seen by another audience.