Monday, May 7, 2012


Release Date: 2012
Production Company: Moxie Firecracker Films
Director: Rory Kennedy
Run time: 97 minutes
Seen at: Maryland Film Festival, screened at MICA Brown Center, May 5 11am
Recommended: Yes
Hosted by: Meaghan Kennedy Townsend (Oldest granddaughter of Ethel Kennedy)

I screened this film at Maryland Film Festival this past weekend.  I have never attended a film festival before, but I now understand them.  It was great to see the community of people attending new films.  I also have not seen a documentary with such a large audience before.  I volunteered at the festival, and received free screening passes.  It was a great trade-off, and I saw 5 films for free.

Ethel was also produced by HBO Documentary Films. HBO is now screening their documentaries at festivals before they release them.  Because it was an HBO production, it had great production value. 

Rory Kennedy is the eleventh and youngest child of Robert and Ethel Kennedy.  She was born 6 months after her father's death, so she was raised by her mother.  The close relationship between the director and her subject allowed for an exceptional film.  The film uses home movies and recordings not previously released to show "behind the scenes of history." There are also interviews with Ethel and her children recalling their lives.  This proves to be very funny and engaging.  The director has to prop up her siblings and make sure that they are comfortable and ready.  Meanwhile, Ethel did not think the film was a good idea.  Who would care about it?

The film tells the story of Ethel's life, beginninng with how Ethel and Robert Kennedy met.  Ethel was college roommates with Jean Kennedy, sister of Robert and John.  They planned a ski trip to Mont Tremblant in Quebec, Canada.  The documentary is entertaining and touching.  It tells the humorous stories, such as the kids tearing through the White House or watching the sharpshooters in the FBI basement.  (Apparently J. Edgar Hoover was not a fan of kids.)  It also tells the difficult stories, such as Ethel losing both parents in a plane crash when she was only 27.  We learn the difficulties Robert faced after the death of his brother.  Ethel is does not articulate her feelings on Robert's death.   However, her reaction speaks volumes.  Ethel has never remarried.

Ethel's oldest granddaughter, Meghan Kennedy Townsend hosted the question and answer session after the film.  She felt that this was an accurate portrayal of her grandmother.  When asked how Ethel felt about the documentary, she was instructed to "tell them how great Rory did."  This statement reflects the character of Ethel Kennedy revealed in the documentary.  She raised 11 children, instilling a sense of reverence of history and knowledge of the greater world around them.  Many of her children have gone into public service or work in some form of social justice.  Yet, Ethel is unwilling to take the credit for her children.  She puts the reasoning on inheriting the traits from her husband.  Rory reminded her mother that he has been gone for 40 year and that Ethel raised them.  Ethel still does not take the credit for her remarkable work.  She believes that the film is about her family, but not about herself.

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