JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass—Oscar Winner Oliver Stone’s New Inflammatory Political Documentary

Cannes Film Fest 2021 (World Premiere)

“The U.S. blockade of Cuba and the Cold War with the Soviet Union could have both ended in 1963 had President John Fitzgerald Kennedy not been assassinated,” controversial filmmaker Oliver Stone say in a recent interview.

Stone spoke about those inflammatory events of the Kennedy assassination at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, which world-premiered his new documentary JFK: Revisited: Through The Looking Glass.

The film relies on old footage as well as new revelatory  interviews with JFK’s relatives, and recently declassified documents about the 35th U.S. president, which have not received the attention they deserve.

“The main point we were trying to make in the documentary was that John Kennedy was a warrior for peace,” Stone said, adding that the Democrat president was making efforts to end the embargo on Cuba and had signed a test ban treaty with the Soviet Union.

“The Cold War was theoretically coming to an end in 1963. You can imagine where the world would be now” if that had happened, Stone said. Instead, Kennedy was assassinated that November, and the US blockade of Cuba has continued for generations.

The new documentary is a “bookend” to Stone’s 1991 feature film ‘JFK,’ which does not accept the official version of the events in Dallas adopted by the US government’s Warren Commission.

Stone also spoke of JFK’s brother Robert Francis Kennedy, who was himself assassinated in 1968 during the Democratic primary campaign.

Robert Kennedy phoned the CIA after his brother’s death and asked “who conducted this horror,” Stone said, citing an interview with a family member. Robert “never believed the Warren commission” and wanted to enact his brother’s policies and investigate his killing, if elected.

“For that reason, I believe Robert was killed in cold blood,” Stone said, adding that the people involved knew “if he got into office, there would be hell to pay.”

Stone also talked about JFK’s involvement with the civil rights movement and connections between the CIA and his alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass explores the factual basis of the events that he had dramatized in JFK (1991), which was nominated for many Oscars, including Best Picture, exactly 30 years ago.  (The winner in 1991 was Jonathan Demme’s superb thriller horror, The Silence of the Lambs)

Narrated by Donald Sutherland and Whoopi Goldberg,the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on the same night that JFK was screened on a giant screen as part of the free series, Cinema a la Plage.

Through the eyes of Louisiana’s District Attorney Jim Garrison, played by Kevin Costner, Stone’s film explored the controversies and cover-ups surrounding the dramatic murder of one of the world’s most influential—and most popular–politicians.

The film was nominated for eight Oscars, winning two, and remains one of the most financially successful movies of the director’s career.

Stone claims that his docu includes new evidence never seen before about the conspiracy that brought to Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

“I want to be very precise because this is not to be fooled around with for a headline that says, We found Kennedy’s murderer! I know the way the press thinks. Most of the American Press, and the world Press, has sensationalized this case, with the headline ‘Who killed Kennedy?’ But for me, the big question is Why, and we tried to answer that, first in JFK and now in this documentary.

 

Memory Hole

Perspective and contexts matter: “I made the movie 30 years ago, and 28 years before that, Kennedy had been assassinated.  This is 58 years ago, and there has been a memory hole. People forget the original evidence, and now there’s been three official investigations, the third one set out by my movie. “The Assassination Records Review Board,” which existed from 1994 to 1998, did a lot of work, but they were not authorized to investigate, they were allowed only to declassify. And they declassified a lot of documents, not all, many were held back. The Secret Service, for example, destroyed many files before, but they did it illegally, and the Records Review Board actually condemned them.

 

Corrupt and Dishonest Commissions

 Stone claims that there’s plenty of new evidence in his documentary? He says: “Let’s go in order. I will start with the Warren Commission, which was the first investigation on the assassination. We found out, as a result of the Records Review Board, that the Warren Commission was even more corrupt than we thought then.

“The big point is that the then President Lyndon Johnson appointed former CIA chief Alan Dulles – who had been fired by Kennedy – to the Board, he was one of the seven. And Dulles controlled very much the meetings and what was shown to the Board, nothing from the CIA of any importance were shown to them. So, the commission members did not know that the CIA had committed foreign assassinations in various countries, they did not know, at the time that Kennedy was in office, that they were trying to assassinate Castro and Kennedy didn’t know it – Eisenhower may have known it.

“Dulles and his CIA were trying every angle. They used Cubans, they used the Mafia, they used anything they could to kill Castro. They were part of the attempted coup-d’état against DeGaulle in 1961, when the OAS tried to take DeGaulle out. They participated in the murder of Lumumba in Congo. That was the atmosphere at that time. And Dulles’ investigation was not an honest one.”

 FBI Role?

Stone says: “The FBI was a main intelligence source for the Board, so many things by Edgar Hoover were given to them, as if Lee Oswald did it alone. But anything that was positive about Oswald was removed. So, the testimony was contaminated. For example, there were two agents, two FBI agents, Sylbert and O’Neal, very important people here. We found out that they sat through the whole autopsy at Bethesda. They never saw those wounds that were described in the autopsy, they saw the original head wound in the back of the head and there were many other things that they saw and said and that was never seen by the Warren Commission.

“Moreover, it was lifted for many years, we never heard about it until the AARB came out. So, we have a Commission that essentially cuts off information that doesn’t want to be included, anything negative about the CIA and about all the CIA people that were working on the case, all taken out.

Autopsy: Miscarriage and Disastrous

“That autopsy was a disaster, it was a miscarriage, like an Italian comic opera. They had three autopsy doctors who don’t know what they are doing, who had no experience with gunshots. The best coroners in the world were available, but they didn’t call or consult them, Instead, they used military people who were under their control, and we have definitive proof of that. We even know that they replaced Kennedy’s brain, which had been dispersed, with another corpse’s brain and closed up his skull again.

 

Robert Kennedy’s Knowledge

Robert Kennedy, the president’s younger brother, had strong suspicions all along: “Right after the assassination, Robert called the CIA and said, ‘Did you do it?’ It’s an interesting story, and in the documentary, we get into that, the motivation for the murder. JFK wanted to pull out of Vietnam, no question, and that is a big deal, because historians have always attacked me for that. We found a declassified report from the defense secretary, McNamara – a meeting in Hawaii which was declassified by the AARB – from which it is very clear that the pullout was underway, a pullout of units, not individual men, and that was just a small beginning.

“But definitely Kennedy was sick of Vietnam, he said if we are not going to go into attack Cuba, which we did not do, why would we send troop to a country so far away as Vietnam?  It’s just crazy. This is important for the historians to understand, because if they attack Kennedy, which many of them do, they say he was involved, started the Vietnam War, actually Eisenhower did by financing the French war, but they say Kennedy did it. Kennedy was reversing that policy, and Johnson, the day after he was elected, as I showed it in the movie, reversed the decision to pull out of Vietnam and allowed the expansion of the war. So, Kennedy was shaking up the place in a big way, that was the motivation, he was going to change things. We also know that Kennedy hated the CIA and had vowed to break it up.

Stone has collected material for an epic-length feature, but he says he made a practical decision to present his case “in a sober two-hour documentary, and to tell the story in a linear fashion that will explain these things more clearly.”

 

Legacy for Future Generations

One of Stone’s goals was to “leave a rather clear record for future generations of Americans so that they could not—and should not—ever forget how their president was killed.” This is an important legacy piece.

Distribution and Release of Docu

Stone and his producers have also decided not to show the documentary to US distributors before the premiere in Cannes.  The situation is different in other markets: “We have a distributor, Altitude, in the U.K. and in some countries in Europe, and we work now with other sales agencies.

 

Raising Awareness

 Stone hopes that his new documentary will raise awareness. He says: “It’s hard to get outrage. When you shoot a President in broad daylight in Dallas at noon, in front of the whole world, the people really know that there are very powerful forces behind it. The situation set up deep distrust of what’s going on at the top, which is getting worse and worse. The killing was a well-done act behind the scenes, it was a smartly staged execution all the way up through its cover-up.”

 

Military-Industrial Complex

Moreover, Stone holds that the assassination still is a turning point in American history: “Our country was never the same after that. After 1963, the intelligence agencies and the military took over the Government and we never got it back. No President has gone up against them. Trump said he would go up against them, but he didn’t, he backed down.”

And the same holds for the Democrat Presidents of the past decades: “Bill Clinton started to do, he backed down. Barack Obama certainly backed down. We have essentially become a military-industrial dictatorship.”