Thursday, October 18, 2012

HBO's 'ETHEL': Lessons Learned

This past summer I was invited to attend a preview screening of HBO's Ethel (Tonight, 1/18 at 9pm on HBO), a feature-length documentary about Ethel Kennedy that was produced and directed by her daughter, Rory Kennedy. I'm already a fan of Rory's (her Ghosts Of Abu Ghraib was so outstanding) so I knew I would enjoy Ethel - but who knew I'd get such an education at the same time?

(Also, I was thrilled to be able to meet Rory Kennedy in person at the post-screening reception. I tried not to go too fangirl on her, but I knew it was the closest I'll ever come to a Kennedy.)

The film covers Ethel's Kennedy's life, touching on her childhood, her early years with Robert F. Kennedy, raising their eleven children (!), RFK's campaigns and Ethel's world after his assassination. Ethel's life was often eclipsed by her more visible and glamorous sister-in-law Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, but it's been a remarkable story nonetheless.

But it's not just a story about Mrs. Kennedy - it's a much more personal, insightful glimpse into historical events that we all know about, but whose intricacies I'd never fully understood. The Cuban Missile Crisis, the standoff with then-governor George Wallace at the University of Alabama, RFK's friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr., his clashing with J. Edgar Hoover – Rory Kennedy does a great job of showing a timeline and insight into these events through interviews with Ethel, her other children and with family friends and associates.

Definitely recommend watching this, and if you have older kids – have them watch it with you. Such an important glimpse into our country's history told so lovingly by the Kennedy family.

Ethel premieres tonight, October 18 at 9pm on HBO.

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