Oliver Stone believes we will never really get to the bottom of the many conflicting accounts of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 – but he will never let the issue go, he says.
Speaking via video link to a small but fascinated audience at the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival, who had just seen his doc “JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass,” Stone also confessed he feels “helpless” in getting at the full story as the slow drip of declassified documents have emerged since that fateful Nov. 22 day in Dallas.
“All we could do was occasionally raise our little voices,” the Oscar-winning former Vietnam soldier recalled of his 30-year quest to get to the bottom of America’s most public crime in modern history.
One major burst of once-secret records, the four-year investigation of some 60,000 documents by the U.S. House of Representatives Assassination Records Board in 1994, has led to scores of revelations, Stone says.
But he added, “It was cut off and time was limited. It should still be going on now.” The documents dump led to a dozen books, many of whose authors appear in Stone’s film – itself inspired by the book “Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case.”
The doc opens in the U.S. next month but the early look at his account of CIA cover-ups, smear campaigns and shadow plays at the highest levels of the U.S. government drew crowds to the Horacke Divadlo screening room in Ji.hlava, where fest director Marek Hovorka interviewed Stone following the film.
Most attendees did not remain to hear from Stone following the heavily scored one-hour, 55-minute doc, but a handful showed keen interest in what has been learned about facts withheld from the public for decades.
Calling his decades-long investigation a “legacy thesis,” Stone said he felt compelled to return to the cause of the JFK assassination because “many things have happened, new information has been accumulating and yet the media, in America at least, has not reported any detail from the investigation.”
Estimating there are still some 20,000 documents not yet released, the director said, “there’s talk of Biden again delaying it – on the basis of COVID. I mean, give me a break! It’s Kafka time – you would know as a Czech.”
Still, major breaks have come to light, Stone says, thanks to those willing to pore over all the files.
“A lot of honest researchers and citizens from all different walks of life have – that’s what matters. And they’ve done the work. If you really go through the files, you find the shit. And the shit doesn’t add up.”
Among the most disturbing revelations to the Ji.hlava audience, some viewers said, were the accounts of two other assassination plots planned but never carried out in Chicago and Tampa, Florida – both by figures with eerily similar backgrounds to Lee Harvey Oswald and apparently intended to employ similar methods to his shooting from a high building situated near where the presidential motorcade had to slow down.
Another point Stone’s doc emphasizes – as did his 1991 feature film “JFK” – is that Kennedy was in the process of drawing down U.S. forces in Vietnam at the time he was killed and had committed to slashing the CIA’s budget and possibly breaking up the agency. The argument that Lyndon B. Johnson simply carried on what Kennedy began does not hold up, Stone argues – which underscores how JFK was seen as a threat to the old-guard military hawks of 1963.
Stone admitted one unexpected result of his 1991 film – besides driving the early release of intelligence files that were originally supposed to be sealed until 2029 – was his reputation as a credible filmmaker taking a public beating.
But he has accepted becoming a controversial figure, Stone said, and plans to continue demanding answers while also working on books and other film projects, adding to his body of work ranging from “Platoon,” “Born on the Fourth of July” and “Nixon” to the TV documentary series “The Untold History of the United States.”