2019 Sundance Docs in Focus: WHERE’S MY ROY COHN?

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Ap/REX/Shutterstock

Matt Tyrnauer reveals the dark influence of the Machiavellian attorney on today’s polarized political landscape.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

Roy Cohn personified the dark arts of 20th-century American politics, turning empty vessels into dangerous demagogues – from Senator Joseph McCarthy to his final project, Donald J Trump. WHERE’S MY ROY COHN? unearths the origins of the seditious right wing’s ascent, revealing how a deeply troubled master manipulator shaped our current political world. This shocking film exposes Cohn’s malign influence and contextualizes him as a modern Machiavelli, tracing his rise to national prominence – first as prosecutor of the Rosenbergs, then as handmaiden to Joseph McCarthy. After these twin disgraces, Cohn re-emerges as a New York power broker, mafia consigliere, white-collar criminal, and, eventually, the mentor of Trump.

Matt Tyrnauer, award-winning journalist, acclaimed documentarian, and Sundance alumnus (STUDIO 54, 2018 Sundance Film Festival) returns to the Festival with perhaps his most explosive and scathingly delicious film to date. WHERE’S MY ROY COHN? shines a blistering spotlight on the horrifying story of the ultimate string-puller whose diabolical influence helped set the United States on its current uncharted course.

Some Background:

  • Matt Tyrnauer
    Past Sundance docs:

    STUDIO 54

    Tyrnauer’s latest project participated in Sundance’s Catalyst Forum. He has a background in journalism, beginning under Graydon Carter at The New York Observer before moving over to Vanity Fair in 1992, where he now is a contributing editor. Tyraner’s directorial debut, VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR, premiered at Toronto and was shortlisted for the Academy Award.


  • Corey Reeser
    Past Sundance docs:

    STUDIO 54

    Reeser is Tyrnauer’s partner at Altimeter Films, which they founded together. Prior to Altimeter, he produced creative content at Herzog and Company.

  • Marie Brenner

    Brenner is an investigative journalist and writer-at-large for Vanity Fair, for which she penned the August 2017 article, “How Donald Trump and Roy Cohn’s Ruthless Symbiosis Changed America.” She recently served as executive producer for Matt Heineman’s 2018 fiction debut, A PRIVATE WAR, which was based on her article, “Marie Colvin’s Private War.”

  • Joyce Deep

    Deep has a long history in politics and public policy, lending her expertise to film projects as a political advisor. She previously served as a public policy, political, and communications advisor to Robert Redford.



  • Graham High
    Past Sundance docs:

    STUDIO 54

    High associate produced Tyrnauer’s recent feature doc, SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD. and worked on the crew of CITIZEN JANE. He previously worked at Herzog and Company.

  • Alison Schnapp
    Past Sundance docs:

    STUDIO 54

    Schnapp was also an associate producer for SCOTTY and worked at Herzog and Company.

  • Micah Baskir

    This marks Baskir’s first Sundance credit following work for shorts, television, and galleries.

  • Andrew Tobias

    Tobias is a writer with a long history covering politics and finance, as well as a former treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, and a gay rights activist. He most recently associate produced THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P JOHNSON.

  • Randy Fertel

    Fertel is an author and philanthropist whose Fertel Foundation supports the arts, education, and food culture. This is his first Sundance credit.

  • Blaine Vess
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE DEVIL WE KNOW (2018)
    TROPHY (2017)

    The investor, philanthropist, and founder of Vess Capital and Freedom Fighter is also an executive producer of fellow 2019 Sundance title MS PURPLE, screening in the US Dramatic Competition.

Executive Producers:

  • Jenifer Westphal
    Past Sundance docs:

    THIS IS HOME (2018)
    SEMBENE! (2015)

    Wavelength Productions’ Westphal previously executive produced SCOTTY and supports films that inspire hope and lasting change.

  • Joe Plummer

    This marks the first Sundance project for Plummer, supervising producer for Wavelength Productions. He has a background producing and directing for television and brands.

  • Lyn Lear
    Past Sundance docs:

    CESAR’S LAST FAST (2014)

    Lear also executive produced fellow 2019 Sundance title THE GREAT HACK in the Documentary Premieres category. She is a philanthropist and social and environmental activist who also serves on the Sundance Institute Board of Trustees. Lear’s husband is legendary television producer Norman Lear.

  • John Boccardo
    Past Sundance docs:


    Boccardo, an architect, is a Palm Springs-based arts patron and art collector who also was an associate producer of 2018 Sundance fiction award-winner NIGHT COMES ON.

  • Ernest H Pomerantz

    Pomerantz is the chairman of StoneWater Capital Management. His wife is Marie Brenner.

  • Lynn Pincus

    Pincus, of public affairs firm Grossman Heinz, previously executive produced SCOTTY.

  • Elliott Sernel

    Palm Springs-based Sernel has a background in law and in supporting LGBT organizations. He also was an executive producer on SCOTTY.

Co-Executive Producer:

  • Andrea van Beuren
    Past Sundance docs:

    CHASING CORAL (2017)
    ALIVE INSIDE (2014)

    van Beuren is the founder and artistic director of newportFILM.


Why You Should Watch:
Tyrnauer astutely connects the dots between past abuses of political power and media influence and the present through this expertly constructed, archive-rich exposé of immoral political bogeyman Roy Cohn and the pernicious legacy he has left the world to contend with in the form of Donald Trump.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.


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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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