Sundance Film Festival has taken over Park City, Utah for the last week and what a week it has been. From movie premiers, screenings, dinners, and events I have come to the conclusion that Sundance is not for the faint-hearted. It has been whirlwind of both outstanding films and incredible people.
On opening night I found myself seated with Rory Kennedy the filmmaker of Ethel ( and Taylor Swift!!) a Sundance documentary around which there was huge buzz. This Emmy award winning documentary film maker, social activist and the youngest of 11 children in the Kennedy family, wrote and produced a deeply personal and moving tribute to her family and in particular her mother. As the Sundance Institute describes it, “it would have satisfied even the most voracious history buffs if Rory Kennedy, youngest child of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, had enlisted her mother’s perspective simply as a fresh angle on the Kennedy years. But Ethel is so much more. Intimate, humorous conversations and never-before-seen images from the family troves uncover an enthralling story of a vivacious, authentic heroine whose transformation—from rambunctious Republican firecracker to savvy Democratic campaigner to socially conscious single mother of 11—arcs definitively as her husband’s drama unfolds.” Ethel Kennedy was a woman way ahead of her time.
Rory Kennedy graduated from Brown University in 1991 with a B.A. in Women’s Studies. In 1998 she and fellow Brown graduate Liz Garbus Founded Moxie Firecracker Films which specializes in documentaries that highlight pressing social issues such as human rights, domestic abuse, poverty, drug addiction, the Abu Ghraib prison, and the global AIDS crisis. One of her most famous films, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, was the 2007 Emmy Award Winning documentary. The film examines the abuses of US soldiers at Iraqi prisons in 2003, and explores the reactions of American society, military and government. It premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
The intimate portrait of her mother and family left even Rory surprised. There were many times during her interviews with Ethel that unleashed details Rory didn’t know. US Today reported Rory was unaware that her mother bet on horses in college or that Robert Kennedy slid down the White House banister when brother John became president. Rory was also quoted in the same article saying, “Now there is a much fuller picture of my mother. Her life has been truly remarkable. In the highs and lows and even the day to day, she has lived intensely. You would be hard-pressed to find another like her.” Ethel is to be aired on HBO later this year.
There are so many more amazing films to report on but this one Ethel will remain in my heart for some time to come. It is a film to take your family to see, but especially your mother.