Yahoo! TV Q&A: Rory Kennedy on her new documentary about her mother, ‘Ethel’
Rory and Ethel Kennedy at the "Ethel" premiere, October 15, 2012
And she's the eleventh and last child of Robert F. and Ethel Kennedy, born six months after her father was assassinated in 1968. In Kennedy's latest film, "Ethel," she interviews her mother and siblings about family stories, historical events, and the many times those things intersected.
The film premieres tonight (October 18th); Yahoo! TV spoke to Kennedy earlier this week about her research process, Hickory Hill pet shows, and the "culture" of her family.
You've said you were surprised, a little bit, that your mother agreed to do the film in the first place. Once she'd agreed, did you have any difficulties getting at specific topics or info with her?
You know, I feel like I asked her every question that I wanted to ask her, and there were no restrictions put on me, in terms of what I could ask and what I couldn't ask…have you seen the film? No.
Yes, I have.
Oh, you have — so you can see, in the film, what she's comfortable answering in a traditional manner, with words that are reflective, and what she's not. "How do you feel about that?" — she hates questions like that, which are pretty basic to documentary filmmaking, and she doesn't like to talk about her feelings, particularly, so she'll say, "That's a ridiculous question," and "Why do I have to answer that," and "All this introspection, I hate it!"
Yeah, I noted that one.
Right. And then obviously in some of the harder questions, about losses that she's felt, the loss of my father, and you know, "Let's move on; talk about something else" — but I think you see, both her response to it and her facial expression, the depth of feeling and emotion and sadness, and also how she manages to kind of forge ahead through difficult times, so she doesn't answer them in a traditional way, but it's very profound.
Along those same lines, the Ethel that you know versus the Ethel that you're trying to convey in the film: were you comfortable as you were going along that that was lining up with your original vision? Did you show footage to anyone else as you went along to ask, is this woman that we know and love coming through?
I didn't really, to my siblings, or to my mother along the way; I really waited to show them a locked picture, but in all of my films, there might be two or three of us who are in the edit room, who are really working on creating the film there — my husband [writer and documentary story editor] Mark [Bailey] plays a big role, and then the editor [Azin] Samari was obviously an integral part of that, and then HBO would see cuts and so they would give feedback along the way, and then there was a handful of other people that I showed it to towards the end, just to make sure that things were — it's hard, I think particularly with this film, for me to have any perspective. "This is so interesting, look at this home movie, and the horses, it's so cute" — I wanted to throw it all in there and I think it's all fascinating, but it's important to have a little bit of outside perspective.