Oliver Stone is returning to the tangled, messy world of John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories with a new JFK documentary headed to Cannes. Stone’s 1991 masterpiece JFK covered the assassination with all the urgency of a crackling thriller, and while the filmmaker’s approach is not what I’d call “factual,” it does make for an incredible movie. This new doc was first announced back in 2019, where it went by the title JFK: Destiny Betrayed.
Stone revealed his new JFK documentary was headed to Cannes during a conversation with filmmaker Spike Lee, via Variety. According to the filmmaker, he’s had a lot of time finding a distributor for the doc – Netflix and National Geographic turned it down due to an “unapproved fact check.” Stone hopes the doc’s presence at Cannes will help rectify all of this. “That’s a big step for us because, at least, if it can’t be recognized in America as a document, it will be recognized in the end by international people. And that’s important,” the filmmaker said. Stone added that the documentary “makes the case harder, tighter. It’s about real facts that are shocking to people.”
The project was first announced back in 2019, where it was going by the name JFK: Destiny Betrayed. During the initial announcement, Destiny Betrayed was billed as a docuseries. In this new conversation with Lee, however, Stone refers to it as a documentary. It’s not entirely clear if that implies the filmmaker edited what was a docuseries into a documentary, or if he’s just referring to the series as a whole as a documentary.
The 2019 announcement claimed that Destiny Betrayed will “reveal that Kennedy’s foreign policy actions were revolutionary in many ways and were a conscious decision he had been contemplating for a decade before taking office,” and that “Stone will put Kennedy’s assassination in context politically, and present interviews, documents, and forensics reports that will change forever how Kennedy’s life, political career, and assassination will be considered.”
Stone has, of course, covered this material before. His star-studded 1991 movie JFK was a huge hit – the sixth highest-grossing film of 1991 worldwide – and became a kind of cultural phenomenon. The movie generated so much attention that it was partially credited by the United States Congress in helping with the passage of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, which directed the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to establish a collection of records to be known as the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection.
The film portrays a vast, labyrinthine conspiracy surrounding the assassination being investigated by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, as played by Kevin Costner. It’s a fantastic movie – in fact, it’s one of my all-time favorite films. But here’s the thing: it’s also…how shall I put this…full of shit. Stone bends and alters innumerable facts to tell the story he wants to tell. In his defense, JFK isn’t a documentary – it’s a movie, and movies based on true stories play fast and loose with the truth all the time. But the film style of the movie – which blends archival footage with grainy black-and-white recreations meant to resemble archival footage – lends the entire movie an air of authenticity. In short, many people come away from JFK thinking that the film portrays what really happened that November day in Dallas in 1963.
And from the sounds of things, Stone is still struggling with the facts here, otherwise, Netflix and Nat Geo wouldn’t have been so quick to turn the documentary (or docuseries) down. In any case, I’m very interested to see what Stone has put together here. We’ll hopefully learn more about the film soon.
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