Planet Kennedy

Article excerpt

Byline: by Ronan O'Reilly

IT HAS, quite fittingly, come back down to the Kennedys. Almost five decades after he founded Radio Caroline the legendary station named, lest it be forgotten, after the only surviving child of America's first Irish president - Ronan O'Rahilly is set to make a return of sorts to the spotlight.

Years after coming up with the idea, has finally directed a film - called King Kennedy - that centres on his lifelong fascination with the Camelot legend the clan behind it.

It's not that surprising a labour love, perhaps, given O'Rahilly's own background. For want of a better he comes from what could described as republican royalty. grandfather Michael, better known The O'Rahilly after apparently appointing himself as chief of the clan of that name, was shot dead in Dublin city centre as he led a team of insurgents during the 1916 Rising.

Thanks to this impressive lineage, O'Rahilly's family was to become close friends with the Kennedys.

Although he too went on to challenge the British establishment, the younger O'Rahilly's revolutionary activities took a different twist - but more of that later.

What's most intriguing now is that of the Swinging Sixties' most colourful figures is revisiting his golden years order to examine their international context.

The Sixties were, of course, an era wonderful music that O'Rahilly helped bring to the masses; but it was played out as the sands of global politics were shifting at an alarming rate.

The King Kennedy film - which is billed by the production company as not 'conventional documentary' - centres John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby, as well as Martin Luther King, and their seismic impact on 20th century history.

UNUSUALLY, though, it relies solely on archive footage - some of it never seen in public before - and nothing else: No narration, no talking heads. Instead, O'Rahilly sifted through more than hours of footage and pared it down to 120-minute film that tells the story the decade through the words and pictures of the three men who shaped it most.

Of course, there are other players too. Political figures like Nikita Khruschev, Fidel Castro, Lyndon B. Johnson and Malcolm X all feature, while the likes of Frank Sinatra, Mari-lyn Monroe and mobster Sam Giancana also make appearances.

Alongside horrifying images of the unfolding war in Vietnam, the film also has compelling footage of the unrest in America amid the burgeoning Civil Rights movement.

But there are lighter moments, too - including a charming scene of a casually-dressed JFK feeding a donkey, as well as clips from his visit to Ireland just five months before he was gunned down in Dallas.

Inevitably, though, it is the bloody deaths of all three men that shapes King Kennedy. The producers claim that the archive material highlights what 'a combined threat they and their truths were to all those who opposed freedom and choice'.

Tellingly, given the conspiracy theory industry that has grown up around the murders (especially that of JFK), the blurb adds: 'Importantly, it also looks at the assassinations of all three men and reveals the intrigue and deception in high places that clouds the true history of this critical era.'

Although a rough cut of King Kennedy has been completed, O'Rahilly has launched an internet campaign to raise funding to make it ready for cinema and DVD release.

Since all the footage used is more than 40 years old, painstaking work to improve the picture and sound quality still needs to be done.

It got an airing at the Venice Film Festival last month, however.

And actress Joanna Lumley has been breathless in her praise, describing it as 'extraordinarily gripping' and saying: 'Even though we are familiar with these world-changing events and tragedies, the glimpses into the build-up and background are chilling. …