John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums

Produced Dec. 1964 by U.S. Information Agency, color 35mm negative, mono sound, 85 mins.
JFK 1961 from NA

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In this poetic propaganda film by the USIA made for foreign audiences, Kennedy is the American hero who had "years of lightning" before his life was ended and remembered in a "day of drums" funeral. The film is structured around the "six faces" of the New Frontier: the Peace Corps, conquest of space, Alliance for Progress, civil rights, freedom, peace. In 1961 "upon the floating globe called the world there were three billion people and most of them were not happy or free or at peace." There were loud and visible problems of " fires burning in the Congo" and a "foreign-dictated government in Cuba" and "starvation for one-third of the world." John Kennedy is portrayed as one of the uncommon men in the history of the world who thought not of problems but of "the invisible and silent" solutions. Featured in this film are his speech at White House to the first Peace Corps volunteers, his journey to Costa Rica -- "viva Costa Rica, viva Costa Rica, mucha gracias" -- the Freedom Riders mass meeting Aug. 28 in Washington DC, the Alan Shephard award ceremony, the Berlin crisis --"if war begins, it begins in Moscow, not Berlin" -- his speech at the Berlin Wall --"Let them come to Berlin" -- and his trip to Ireland. Interspersed between each of these segments are scenes from the 1963 funeral. "History will pick up its cold pen and book, and write in chronological order the events of the day with the date and time and the city. But history will be wrong, for there wasn't one date, or time, or city." His life and death symbolized the "invisible and silent" hopes and dreams of the world.

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revised 4/19/04 by Steven Schoenherr | Filmnotes