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Question for Jim on Stone Documentary


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14 minutes ago, James DiEugenio said:

In fact, there was supposed to be one open screening on Tuesday, now there are two.

That is fantastic, Jim, congratulations are in order.

Will the 4 hour version eventually be available for viewing someday?

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9 hours ago, James DiEugenio said:

I was not at Cannes.  I just got some feedback from Rob Wilson, the producer who is there.  He said it was a really positive vibe at the press/exhibitors screening and the production company was excited about the reaction.  In fact, there was supposed to be one open screening on Tuesday, now there are two.

The part I wanted to harp on was the fact that although both the WC and the HSCA relied on CE 399, that bullet is clearly a fraud. It was never fired in Dealey Plaza and had utterly no chain of custody. (I loved how Henry Lee explained this.)  It would never be allowed in a court of law.  And we go into that in depth with documents.

Another part I wanted to accent was the whole Jeremy Gunn interview with Stringer for the ARRB.  Where he said that he did not do those skull x rays.  And he based it on the film type, and the technique used.  We had Horne do that one since he was in the room with Jeremy.

My other favorite part was the outlining of the two plots to kill JFK prior to Dallas, in Chicago and in Tampa.  Wait until you see what we did with Elmer Moore.

Why are some saying we might not be able to see the film ourselves here in the states?

Certainly not in theaters.

But what about TV and video release?

 

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Originally, the film was not designed as a theatrical release.

Very few documentaries these days get a run in theaters.

It was meant for sale to television.

Our first distributor had problems selling the film for reasons I won't go into.

But Rob and Oliver made some changes to the editing of the film, they also decided to make two versions, a 2 hour and four hour one, and this new distributor Altitude  from UK, decided to take it to Cannes to build momentum through word of mouth.  And that now seems to be working.  From my understanding, the UK release is near.  And they expect a North America sale this fall. So let us keep our fingers crossed.

We all understand the political factors involved don't we? That does not really exist in Europe.

 

Edited by James DiEugenio
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Unlike Nigel Turner, everything in the film had to be documented.

Oliver's lawyers insisted on this.

So if anyone doubts anything in the presentation, we can back it up.

Some people out there simply do not want to accept the things the ARRB did.

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Jim

On a personal note, I just got a copy of your 2nd edition of Destiny Betrayed for my birthday.  Its awesome, and really pulls together the big picture of Kennedy's political challenges, and the forces he was up against. I've not been able to put it down since I got it. It reminds me that - which an engineer and physicist (not a liberal arts person) - the JFK story has allowed me to better understand modern American history and Cold war politics. That aspect of the assassination is as interesting to me as is the plot and coverup.  I've also become a big fan of your extensive and meticulous footnoting and references ... as Lisa Pease's preface and Bill Davy's foreword state, the footnotes are an entire book of reading unto themselves.  I'm sure that the fact-checking now common/required for such film documentaries will be greatly aided by have such comprehensively referenced information in your book.  That was an obvious and common criticism of Oliver's 1992 JFK movie (i.e. that it was based upon inaccurate history and facts).  With the thorough accounting in Destiny Betrayed, the critics will have a more difficult time making that specious claim.

While I know many of the back-stories and topics in Destiny, this 2nd edition takes me to a next level of understanding.  Peripheral characters like Kerry Thorley are brought into better focus, and events like the Clinton-Jackson visit become much clearer in intent. Jim Garrison was surely on the right trail, and the forces that he was up against were formidable. As most of us already understand, its nonetheless incredible that the Paines escaped attention and notoriety.  However, if the film depicts their treachery, then the public will become better informed.  I've also learned a lot more about the work of the ARRB that I didn't appreciate. 

Great book!  

Gene

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I recently reread JFK:The Book of the Film by Stone and Zachary Sklar. Published in 1992,it is the screenplay of the film with annotations and research notes. Another section contains journalism from 1991 and 1992 on the film-reviews,editorials,letters,and articles attacking and defending the film. The reader can see all of the contemprary attacks and hand wringing in the mainstream media over a film being made that dared to question the Warren Commission,such as this gem from David Belin and Gerald Ford in the Washington Post-

“When will the responsible leaders of our free press,who owe so much to Earl Warren,stand up for truth,expose the techniques that have been used to disseminate the big lie and fully defend Earl Warren’s name from the slanderous charges that have been made against him and the Warren Commission?”

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4 hours ago, Gene Kelly said:

As most of us already understand, its nonetheless incredible that the Paines escaped attention and notoriety.

Definitely. Remember that the Paines were too hot to be named in JFK.

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One of the better reviews is  by Stephen Dalton in the Hollywood Reporter (July 12th) where he opens  by stating that "the controversial director weighs up recently declassified evidence about the assassination in this forensically detailed documentary":  

Had he lived, Kennedy may indeed have avoided full-scale war in Vietnam, but he was far from the messianic prince of peace that Stone needs him to be to fit his reductive narrative of American imperial villainy. None of this disproves speculation that he was killed in a treacherous coup plot, of course, but these lapses into misty-eyed Camelot mythology weaken the film’s otherwise impressively strong factual elements. Stone’s conception of good and evil is military-industrial, but not very complex.

In visual terms, JFK Revisited offers a polished blend of contemporary interviews, archive footage and explanatory graphics. Surprisingly, clips from the original JFK are only deployed very sparingly. Stone’s regular cinematographer Robert Richardson, who also works with Scorsese and Tarantino, gives the film a glossy old-school finish. Stone himself only appears occasionally on screen, chiefly to pose precisely scripted questions to his expert guests. He also shares voice-over duties with Donald Sutherland, who had a small but pivotal role in JFK, and Whoopi Goldberg. Composer Jeff Beal’s overly insistent, intrusive score is the most jarring element in an otherwise handsome technical package.

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And this review from Awards Watch by Adam Solomons on July 13th: 

The Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) set up in 1992 amid a flurry of renewed interest in the assassination has steadily published previously classified documents which give more credence to the notion Kennedy may have been executed by the CIA as part of an effort to expand America’s military interventions abroad. That rationale is a crucial aspect of Stone’s original film: that the Kennedy brothers were the first White House occupants since World War Two to sincerely oppose American interventionism, and haven’t been matched since, is the strongest argument existing that the defense establishment acted to replace Kennedy with the more battle-ready Lyndon Johnson. Shortly after Kennedy was killed, the US vastly expanded its phony case for a full-scale invasion of Vietnam. The rest is history.

After all, the assassination itself was never quite Stone’s main interest. The director’s original film targets the shadowy defense establishment’s ability to conduct illegal covert operations, and kill the president if it wanted to, as much as point the finger to a specific plot. JFK Revisited is much the same, lambasting the CIA and FBI’s intellectual laziness toward essential classified material as much as alleging the involvement of Clay Shaw and the Cuban campaigners. It’s this rejection of American policymaking in general which made JFK so iconoclastic.

It’s encouraging to see Stone hasn’t left it behind. The sound perspective of Kevin Costner’s Jim Garrison is also missing, with Stone’s own investigative angle taking precedent. That reflects a desire to return to the assassination as a widely accepted plot, rather than persuade Americans anything suspicious happened at all, as JFK sets out to do. This gives JFK Revisited the impression of an ideological victory lap – and a somewhat deserved one, too. As the late Donald Rumsfeld might say, there are still many unknown unknowns about the JFK assassination. Oliver Stone still has an appetite to find them.

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Thanks for those Gene.

See, the problem with the two hour version is that, by necessity, it had to dispose of the introduction to the film.

The introduction was Kennedy's relationship with Edmund Gullion and how that had a transformative impact on his view of the Cold War.  We built that to climax around the 1957 Algeria Speech, which we actually got a tape of. And then we followed that up with Kennedy's devotion to The Ugly American book and movie.  We intercut this between scenes of the Algerian civil war, and Brando in the film of The  Ugly American, which Kennedy helped get made, and the use of scholars like Robert Rakove and Philip Muehlenbeck, who did such good work on JFK's reformist foreign policy.

I figured we had to do that in order to explain all the things that happened afterwards--the changes LBJ and the CIA made in foreign policy.  And also why the JCS and CIA despised him.  And why all those miltiary guys were in the mrogue gallery that night and Lemay flew in from Canada, refused to reply to his aide de camp on the radio, and then secretly flew into the wrong airport in order to avoid detection.

The two hour version is good.  The four hour version will be magisterial.

 

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Jim

The four-hour version of the screen play will bring all of this detail in your book to light, and so better inform the broader public perception.  I'm further into Destiny Betrayed and its just fascinating.  I have been reading and studying this convoluted/complex JFK story for many years now (and all of its many subplots), but it amazes me how much there still is to learn and appreciate. Big picture, its instructive to see the true picture of Kennedy's foreign policy and an authentic accounting of American Cold War history. It provides a motive and reason for his murder. On the smaller scale, the details found in the released ARRB records are also very important context to add to the previously known stories of fact.  Perhaps more telling is what topics were withheld for so long (until ARRB, and even today) such as the story of FBI agents Sibert and O'Neill, the conflicts of interest and unethical behavior of Clay Shaw's legal team, the inference of so-called journalist  provocateurs (Phelan, Aynesworth, Sheridan, even Garrison's best man), and most notably, the inner workings of the HSCA.

A few prominent observations about the conduct of the HSCA from Destiny Betrayed really stick out to me ... frankly, I had no idea how controlled and predetermined the Committee was.  While most remember it for the Grassy Knoll inferences, it essentially upheld much of the Warren Commission findings (including ballistics), ignored the reality of the autopsy, threw in a convenient 'shot that missed' from the Knoll (based on contentious and confusing acoustics analysis), and then inserted the tentative and uncertain phrase "probable conspiracy".  While I worry that the average audience won't be able to process all of this information (particularly if they're not already well-read into the case), you just can't make a story like this up:

  • Robert Blakey was originally associated with Dick Billings of LIFE in discrediting or undermining Garrison during his investigation in the late 60's ... and then ten years later, Billings (a so-called "freelance writer") helps Blakey write the "small conspiracy" HSCA script. This is promptly aggrandized by their "mob did it" book in 1981, which is patent disinformation and a limited hangout.  Hard not to smell some rats there. 
  • The sabotage of the early HSCA, and the attack upon Sprague and Tannenbaum.  As one of the attorney's stated: "When I saw that they could do this to Dick Sprague, I knew there was a conspiracy".  And how many of the HSCA  investigators refused to talk about their experiences such as Jonathan Blackmer.
  • The extreme censorship and management of the NOLA investigators (L. J. Delsa and Bob Buras) ... HSCA was studiously avoiding Garrison's leads, witnesses and evidence (like the Plague) 
  • On the eve of the Clay Shaw trial, Attorney General Ramsey Clark publicizes a misleading report (the Clark Panel)  that ostensibly re-examined the autopsy material, and in particular, the head wound.  This is clearly a cover-up of the disgraceful and treasonous Bethesda autopsy.  To make matters worse, many of the pathologists who were later selected for the HSCA medical panel were from the original Russell Fisher forensic pathology circle, and had a vested interest in maintaining this inaccurate story.  So much for independence. 
  • How the trio of Blakey, Cornwell and Billings kept their investigators in the dark, micromanaged a preconceived HSCA Final Report, capitulated to the CIA,  perpetuated the single bullet theory (with questionable science), and sidestepped the sinister suspicious autopsy (although Pierre Finck's Shaw trial testimony is staring them in the face). It also surprised me how Blakey and the HSCA actually treated Garrison almost like a hostile witness in his HSCA interview. 
  • Blakey's feigned indignation and hand-wringing in 2003, when he complained that the CIA did not reveal that George Joannides had also been the handler of the anti-Castro group called DRE, and that this somehow compromised the committee’s investigation … the entire DRE/Joannides topic is disingenuous and misleading. 

Gene

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On 7/11/2021 at 5:34 PM, Richard Booth said:

Oliver Stone's own narration on his last documentary series (which almost everyone I know hates, but I liked) was pretty damn solid. 

Maybe I am an asshole because I want a serious sounding guy with some bass in his voice talking about serious things rather than a folksy salt of the earth comedian.

He was good in that Untold History or the USA. He’s no Morgan Freeman though. 🙂 

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