While she may be one of the most recognized documentarians in the country, Rory Kennedy didn’t set out to be a filmmaker. Rather, it was her interest influencing political policy that led her to the camera. “I was very much attracted because of an interest in social advocacy more so than my appreciation for the art of documentary filmmaking,” Kennedy said at an In Conversation event Monday.
Kennedy told a group of Sarasota High School students that day, and later retold the story at the In Conversation event, that her first film was done to combat punitive drug policies which were preventing crack-addicted mothers from seeking rehab treatment. She found the most effective way to lobby was to bring the addicts into liking rooms through the power of film.
Of course, it is somewhat lighter fare which brings her to the Sarasota Film Festival this year. Kennedy’s newest film Ethel provides a look at the political events of the 1960s through the eyes of her mother Ethel Kennedy, wife to the late Sen. Robert Kennedy.
The film digs through archival footage of Robert Kennedy’s political career up to his assassination in 1968, but the director is emphatic in saying the film is not about putting together an image of her father, who died six moths before Rory Kennedy was born. It is instead about spotlighting Ethel, who was bringing her children to Justice Department meetings and on the campaign trail to help instill a sense of social awareness.
The film was screened three times a the festival, once to the Sarasota High student group and twice to ticket-holders. If you missed it, Kennedy said it is expected to air on HBO in October.
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