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Documentary on Covington Catholic student’s viral encounter at U.S. Capitol streams starting Friday


Special to KyForward

Rush to Judgment, the documentary about then-Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann’s viral 2019 encounter at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., will be released via the streaming service Vimeo this Friday.

Greater Cincinnati filmmakers Steve Oldfield and Ryan Anderson spent more than a year investigating the story and scored exclusives with Sandmann, his father and some other major players in the story.

Film Threat reviewer Alan Ng wrote, “Whatever side of the aisle you find yourself on, Rush to Judgment is a remarkable and important doc.”

The film was selected for the Anthem Film Festival in Las Vegas and The Louisville International Festival of Film in 2020 but the filmmakers made the difficult decision to drop out of both festivals when they cancelled in-person screenings due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Producer Ryan Anderson, Nick Sandmann and his dad, Ted, and Stephen Oldfield after interviews in 2020.

“We hope to return to traditional festival screenings at Anthem and Louisville later this year but we really didn’t want to wait any longer,” Oldfield said.

After a feature earlier this month by journalist Gabe Kaminsky in The Federalist generated more than 5,000 hits to their website, Oldfield and Anderson decided it was time.

“The whole movie distribution business has changed so much in the past year, we thought that a video version of self-publishing was best,” Anderson said.

The filmmaking duo are getting some help from the pros when it comes to booking a speaking tour on college campuses. They signed with Contemporary Issues Agency, which represents a wide variety of speakers across the country. Oldfield and Anderson already have spoken to one college in Missouri and have a presentation scheduled next month in Indiana. Oldfield hopes to also bring their film and discussion to Thomas More University, where he teaches journalism and film courses.

“Once COVID restrictions are eased, we’d love to do a whole panel discussion with some of the great media experts we feature in the film,” Oldfield said.

The filmmakers talked with Julie Irwin-Zimmerman of The Atlantic, and Joe Starrs, who is the director of the Journalism Program at The Fund For American Studies in Washington.

Oldfield was a fellow in the program’s first class at Georgetown University back in 1985. He graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and from Covington Latin, a school that hasn’t historically enjoyed a warm relationship with Covington Catholic.

“If you’d have told me as a kid that I’d be devoting several years of my life to defending Cov Cath, I never would have believed it,” Oldfield said. “But I think they have a really great school and were treated unfairly on so many levels.”

Oldfield funded the documentary entirely on his own with Anderson. They knew they had done the right thing when finally interviewing the Sandmanns after trying for more than a year.

“We had actually shot and edited the entire doc without Nick and his Dad because we weren’t sure they’d be able to talk due to their lawsuits against media outlets,” Oldfield said. “Once they scored their first settlement and we got the okay, we were blown away by Nick’s class and eloquence.”

They added the interviews throughout the documentary.

In addition to the Sandmanns, the film features Cov Cath graduate Michael Hodge and his mother Pamela. Michael was first identified as the boy in the viral video by the online mob. He and his family weren’t even in Washington, D.C. for the March for Life as they were hosting a family wedding that weekend in Northern Kentucky.

“They were trying to celebrate and kept getting thousands of angry and threatening messages on Twitter,” Oldfield said. “We thought it was important to include their story to show it wasn’t just the Sandmanns who suffered.”

Filmmakers also scored an exclusive with an African-American boy who was verbally attacked by members of the Hebrew Israelites just before the encounter at the Lincoln Memorial. The Cov Cath freshman was so traumatized by the event, he dropped out of school for the rest of 2019 and then transferred to a public school.

“He’s a really great kid with awesome parents – they showed another side that never made it into the media’s coverage,” Oldfield said.

Along with some other Covington Catholic students, parents and journalists, Anderson wanted to include commentators on social media from around the world. He watched hundreds of hours of “vloggers” to craft a diverse conversation in the documentary.

“I found people from as far away as Australia and Malaysia talking about Nick Sandmann and Covington Catholic,” Anderson said. “Their comments run the gamut from insightful and profound to downright funny,” he said.

Rush to Judgment can be streamed on Vimeo and through www.RushToJudgmentDocumentary.com


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