Friday, April 25, 2008

Robert Drew Produces New Documentary on JFK

Robert Drew, the maker of four earlier documentaries on John F. Kennedy, has produced a new retrospective on the Kennedy presidency. "A President to Remember: In the Company of John F. Kennedy" will be screened at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 26, at Pace University's Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts. Composed from Mr. Drew’s four acclaimed Kennedy films that represent the birth of the cinéma-vérité movement in America, the new work brings to brilliant life an American President, whose ideals and actions would often stand in stark contrast to those of today’s administration. The breakthrough documentaries, Primary, Adventures on the New Frontier,Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment and Faces of November, are thoughtfully edited together to offer a front-row look at how one man struggled to bring wisdom, honor and integrity to the nation’s top post.“Now, more than ever, it’s important for us to look back at JFK and his legacy and learn what we can as we continue to create American history today,” said Mr. Drew. “I created A President to Remember: In the Company of John F. Kennedy from the realization that young people today have never known what it’s like to have a President who is celebrated both within the country and around the globe.” A President to Remember: In the Company of John F. Kennedy travels in the company of John F. Kennedy from his days as a young Senator campaigning for the Presidency to the tune of “High Hopes” (his campaign theme song); to his early days in the White House; through to his struggles grappling with major issues, from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the desegregation of the University of Alabama, vehemently opposed by Governor George Wallace, who physically barred the entry of the first two African-American students. At the close of the film, the shock and deeply-felt sorrow of Kennedy’s assassination is captured in the faces of his compatriots.
The film notes, “Kennedy conjured visions of a more compassionate America and a more decent world.” Through Mr. Drew’s lens, the President is seen challenging the Soviet Union and its leader, Nikita Khrushchev, to a “peace race,” as he endeavors and ultimately succeeds in drafting and signing a Test Ban Treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons tests by both countries. Kennedy expresses his goal to “make the world safe for diversity” and “lessen the chance of a military collision,” which would potentially endanger the lives of millions of innocent people. In 1960, Mr. Drew revolutionized the art of the documentary with Primary, his first Kennedy film, that moved in lockstep with the rising star of the then Senator as he campaigned against Senator Hubert Humphrey in Wisconsin. Mr. Drew and his associates developed the first sync-sound motion picture cameras small enough to film intimately almost anywhere, effectively compiling a record that Kennedy himself admired as a “new form of history.” As seen in A President to Remember: In the Company of John F. Kennedy, using this new technique made it possible for Mr. Drew and his team to present “a view closer to John F. Kennedy than any President before him, or, it turns out, any President since….”
Kennedy’s decision to permit cameras to candidly record the action taking place within the White House and the inner sanctum of the Oval Office for the first time raised a storm of protest, but resulted in a journalistic breakthrough of historic proportions.
Since 1960, when Mr. Drew formed Drew Associates, his films have captured an impressive range of extraordinary people and remarkable events on film – from race car drivers competing in the Indianapolis 500 to sailors racing Tall Ships across the Atlantic, combat pilots in Vietnam to NASA scientists guiding spacecraft to Mars. With Producer Anne Drew, Mr. Drew extended his candid filmmaking into the arts, as they followed Duke Ellington on the road, and documented the life of Indian Prime Minister Nehru, Prime Minister Indira Gandi and, later, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandi, among many other striking subjects.
Mr. Drew’s more than 60 documentaries have been recognized at film festivals across the globe – from New York and London to Cannes, Venice and Brazil – earning the filmmaker major broadcast awards, including Emmy, Peabody and duPONT-Columbia.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Virtual JFK: Vietnam if Kennedy Had Lived

"Filmmaker and scholar Koji Masutani had to look past Cleopatra's nose to get to the heart of what president John F. Kennedy would have done in Vietnam, had he survived an assassin's bullets in 1963.
In Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived, a world premiere at the Hot Docs film festival (April 17-27), Masutani tackles one of the thorniest what-ifs of modern history: would avowed peacemaker Kennedy have ended U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War? Or would he have been forced by circumstances to escalate it the way his successor Lyndon B. Johnson did?
"I would be happy as a filmmaker if I can at least get a viewer to seriously consider that the Vietnam War was a war of choice and was not inevitable," the Tokyo-born Masutani, 26, said in a telephone interview.
A visiting fellow at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies in Rhode Island, Masutani begins his film by rejecting the popular "Cleopatra's nose" theory of speculative history. It was defined by 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal, who wrote that if the Egyptian queen hadn't been a beauty, "the whole face of the world would have been changed" because wars wouldn't have been fought in her name."
The official site of the film is here:
Read about the book and accompanying teacher's guide here:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Abraham Bolden Speaks in Newburgh

Abraham Bolden, the first black Secret Service agent spoke about his new book "The Echo from Dealey Plaza" at the Newburgh Free Library last week. Appointed to the White House detail by JFK himself, Bolden soon found himself in a world of hostility and blatant racism culminating in his prosecution on trumped up charges when he tried to contact the Warren Commission to assist in their investigation. In a related story the Chicago Tribune has verified Bolden's version of events. See:,1,5617994.story

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings

Debut Slated for April 24 at 8 p.m.
KOCE-TV, Orange County’s trusted PBS source for more than 35 years, today announced plans to present the exclusive premiere of “The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings,” a two-hour documentary adapted from Thomas Maier’s high-profile book of the same name. The program will air Thursday, April 24 at 8 p.m.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Former JFK Secret Service Agent Bolden to Speak at Newburgh Library

Abraham Bolden, the first African American Secret Service agent will speak in Newburgh, New York at the Newburgh Free Library on April 8. This is a free event but you must register.
Event Type: Adult Program
Date: 4/8/2008
Start Time: 7:00 PM
End Time: 8:30 PM
Description: Author Abraham Bolden will speak on his new book, The Echo From Dealey Plaza, The True Story of the First African American on the White House Secret Service Detail and His Quest for Justice After the Assassination of JFK. Book signing may be offered. Call 563-3614 for additional information.
Location: Auditorium
Presenter: Chuck Thomas
Status: Openings

Thursday, April 3, 2008

New Book: JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters" by James W. Douglass

An astonishing new examination of the Kennedy assassination and its meaning today for the struggle for peace. James Douglass lays out the journey that led JFK in the course of three years from his position as a traditional Cold Warrior to his determination to break with the logic of the Cold War and lead the world in an entirely different direction. This sequence of steps led his adversaries in the military and intelligence establishment to view him as a virtual traitor who had to be eliminated. Douglass’s book has all the elements of a political thriller. But the stakes couldn’t be higher. Only by understanding the truth behind the murder of JFK can we grasp his vision and assume the urgent struggle for peace today.
Advance Praise for "JFK and the Unspeakable" :
"JFK and the Unspeakable is an exceptional achievement. Douglass has made the strongest case so far in the JFK assassination literature as to the Who and the Why of Dallas. The conjunction of unrestrained elements in cold war America—defense industry elites, Pentagon planners, and the heads of the intelligence community—were the forces that led inexorably to Dallas and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.”--Gerald McKnight, author, Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why

“With penetrating insight and unswerving integrity, Douglass probes the fundamental truths about JFK’s assassination. If, he contends, humanity permits those truths to slip into history ignored and undefined it does so at its own peril. By far the most important book yet written on the subject.” --Gaeton Fonzi, former Staff Investigator, US House Select Committee on Assassinations

“Douglass presents, brilliantly, an unfamiliar yet thoroughly convincing account of a series of creditable decisions of John F. Kennedy—at odds with his initial Cold War stance—that earned him the secret distrust and hatred of hard-liners among the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA. Did this suspicion and rage lead directly to his murder by agents of these institutions, as Douglass concludes? Many readers who are not yet convinced of this ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ by Douglass’s prosecutorial indictment will find themselves, perhaps—like myself—for the first time, compelled to call for an authoritative criminal investigation. Recent events give all the more urgency to learning what such an inquiry can teach us about how, by whom, and in whose interests this country is run.” --Daniel Ellsberg, author, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

“For forty years Jim Douglass has been our leading North American Catholic theologian of peace. But this monumental work on the witness of JFK is something deeper still. Douglass is trying to get us to connect the dots between our ‘citizen denial,’ the government’s ‘plausible deniability,’ and the Unspeakable. This book has the potential to change our narrative about our country, and our lives as citizens and disciples. May we have ears to hear these truths, hearts able to bear their burden, and hands willing to build a new story.”

—Ched Myers, author, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus

A remarkable achievement, outstanding even in an overcrowded field. It is profoundly conceived, researched, considered, argued, and written. Douglass shows persuasively how Kennedy’s innovative steps in foreign policy produced dangerous opposition within his own national security establishment. Not all will agree with his detailed speculation as to what happened in Dallas. But Douglass’s large picture of America’s political agony is, I believe, incontrovertible and certain to last.”--Peter Dale Scott, author Deep Politics and the Death of JFK

“This book’s story of JFK and the ‘unspeakable’ is a stunning mix of political thriller and meticulous scholarship. Even as it points persuasively to rogue powers at work in the U.S. military-industrial complex, it also witnesses to the power of spirit, inspiring prophetic voices like Thomas Merton’s, turning a president like John Kennedy toward peace, thus also enabling readers to see into the current deep structure of U.S. war and empire. Douglass’s book offers a goldmine of information and is indispensable for building prophetic spirit and hope.”—Mark Lewis Taylor, Princeton Theological Seminary

“A remarkable book: devastating in its documented indictment of the dark forces that have long deformed the public life of this country, while also illuminating JFK’s final vision of world peace and documenting beyond reasonable doubt the unspeakable assassination of our last partially admirable president. This book should be required reading for every American citizen.”—Richard Falk, Milbank Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University

James W. Douglass is a longtime peace activist and writer.He and his wife Shelley are co-founders of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, Washington, and Mary’s House, a Catholic Worker house of hospitality in Birmingham, Alabama. His books include The Nonviolent Cross, The Nonviolent Coming of God, and Resistance and Contemplation.