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How Rory Kennedy Hopes to Prevent Another Fatal Plane Crash With ‘Downfall: The Case Against Boeing’ (Video)

Sundance 2022: Kennedy’s documentary explores the fatal missteps that cost more than 300 lives

Academy Award–nominated director Rory Kennedy (“Last Days in Vietnam”) returned to the Sundance Film Festival this year with a searing investigation into how corporate America prioritized profits over people in the documentary “Downfall: The Case Against Boeing.”

Kennedy and screenwriters Mark Bailey (who is married to Kennedy) and Keven McAlester meticulously scrutinize the corporate oversight that eventually led to two fatal crashes of Boeing’s 737 MAX jets within 5 months of each other in October 2018 and March 2019, causing a total of 346 fatalities. 

“I really wanted to know what happened and who was responsible for these crashes, and also to try to make a film where we could learn enough to prevent something like this from happening again,” Kennedy told Steve Pond at TheWrap’s virtual Sundance studio.

Through interviews with pilots, family members of the victims, politicians like Rep. Peter DeFazio (who led a Congressional investigation into the crashes), former Wall Street Journal reporter Andy Pasztor and others, the filmmakers make their case about Boeing’s corporate malfeasance.

“Knowing that Boeing knew the risk and what that meant, that people could die, and there was a decision to make — that they made to prioritize profits over human loss,” Kennedy said.

The film never loses sight of the victims and their families who paid the ultimate toll for Boeing’s decision to not ground its MAX fleet. 

Michael Stumo, whose daughter died in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, makes an appearance in the film and spoke during TheWrap’s panel.

“We’re fighting one of the biggest corporations in the world with their excessive focus on profit and we have to get the word out to everyone in order to make change, in order to avoid a third crash, in order to further convince Boeing that cutting safety doesn’t pay,” Stumo told TheWrap. “This movie will go out to quite a few countries and we need to let people know the MAX is still not safe.”

TheWrap’s Sundance Studio is presented by NFP and National Geographic Documentary Films.