These days nearly, if not all, documentary films contain an interview or more. For better or worse it is just how the structure of documentaries have come to be defined. So as a cinematographer and director of photography for documentary films, I find myself shooting lot of interviews. A. Lot. Everyone from the President to 5-year-old kids. Last month I shot perhaps my favorite one: Robert Blakley.
The interview was for a documentary being produced by Nina Gilden Seavey. Nina is a long tenured and accomplished documentary filmmaker. Additionally, she is the director of the documentary program at George Washington University and co-founder of The Silver Docs Film Festival, one of the preeminent documentary only film festivals in the world. I had the pleasure of meeting her while working as a camera operator on short documentary film of hers early in my career. That film went on to play at several film festivals win several awards. The latest film of hers with with I have worked and served as director of photography, “Parables of War,” recently completed a festival run and is now being distributed by Gravitas Ventures and has received a number of glowing reviews.
So I was happy to hear about her latest project when she called me to ask if I wanted to film an interview with her in Phoenix, Arizona. Blakley, now 85 and a retired attorney, lead the House Assassinations Committee investigations into the JFK and MLK assassinations in the late 1970s. If there is a person alive who knows most accurately the truth behind those assassinations, it is this man. Nina’s film concerns the student protest and Civil Rights Movement protests in the late 1960s so for purposed of the interview was interested specifically in Blakley’s knowledge of the Martin Luther King assassination.
But I couldn’t leave without an inquiry into the John F. Kennedy assassination. As a child growing up in the 1980s and early ’90s, every November 22 the JFK assassination was discussed. I remember my social studies teacher showing the Zapruder film and the analysis of the trajectories of the bullets. My teachers, along with my parents, were baby-boomers and children at the time of the assassination. It as much a mark of their childhood as the Challenger explosion in 1986 might be for mine. So I grew up surrounded by the emotional memories of that event and the continued efforts, some 30 years later, to grapple with what happened.
The discussion seems to have faded dramatically since that time yet I don’t recall a conclusion or consensus reached on what actually was behind the assassination. So after we wrapped the interview. my curiosity got the best of me and while I was packing up my camera and lighting gear, I asked Blakley jokingly if he thought there was another shooter behind the grassy knoll. “Yes,” he said. “There were two shooters and I’m pretty sure I know who they were.” Say again? We talked for a quite a while longer in which he revealed that actors from the mafia and the Cuban-American community were behind the plot to assassinate the president. My mind was blown. Here is the man who perhaps knowns most accurately the truth behind the most notorious assassination of the last several generations and yet here he is quietly living out his retirement years in Scottsdale where none seems to be interested in talking to him about what he knows.
Fortunately, he has written a book about his findings. I’ll hold back on the details here and instead direct you to said book. It’s available for one cent. I’m reading it now.