Oliver Stone: “After the Kennedy murder the decline of the Empire began”

It all started with the short film “Last Year in Viet Nam”. It was 1971, a young American returning from the Vietnam War with a series of medals on his chest made his directorial debut with a small documentary. His name was Oliver Stone. He had just graduated from New York University Film School with a man named Martin Scorsese as a professor. His career has since become legend and his cinema, even the fictional one for which he became world famous with titles such as “Platoon” and “Wall Street”, “Born on the Fourth of July” and “Snowden”, has always remained strongly anchored to reality, with an often polemical air towards the United States. It is impossible to forget the sensation that his “JFK – A case still open” made in the 1990s, for the conspiracy thesis taken from the novel “JFK. On the trail of the assassins “by District Attorney Jim Garrison (in the film Kevin Costner). An outcry that led to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (the famous” JFK Act “) and the formation of the commission of investigation US Assassination Records Review Board, charged with reviewing the investigation following Kennedy’s murder. Stone never let go, never stopped investigating, investigating, studying papers and listening to witnesses about the murder by Kennedy, so much so that thirty years later he re-proposes another film, “JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass”, and a four-episode miniseries, “JFK – Destiny Betrayed”, in which he reviews new documents hitherto classified. Premiered at the Rome Film Fest, they will air respectively on La 7 and on Sky Documentaries on November 22, the historic date of the assassination in ’63.

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Why does Kennedy’s murder still have such a central interest in your life and cinematography today?
“It was an event of historical significance on a world level and produced a ripple effect on what today I would call an empire in decline, the American one. Kennedy was a warrior of peace, he was trying to change the world, he had started a revolution and he could give life to a dynasty of presidents who who knows how they would change our country for the better. Instead, since his death, America has degenerated, between racial conflicts, civil war, increasing distrust of political leaders and information. My interest arises precisely from the frustrating disappointment that the American media never covered the Kennedy assassination as it should have. That is, investigating, questioning, shedding light on the truth. Either they were lazy, or, as I believe, accomplices. “

You have already signed a film in 1991. Why did you feel the need to return to the story with a documentary and a docu-miniseries?
«Many have judged my“ JFK – A case still open ”to be pure fiction, even if in fact it was not fiction. I kept to the events that really happened and made a kind of dramatization of them. At that time the elements concerning his murder were so many and equally disparate that I tried to condense them by giving them a dramatic narrative structure to be able to capture the attention of the public. This time the work was totally different. It is a pure documentary (the miniseries is the original extended version, the documentary the synthesis, ed) based on the investigations of the writer and activist James DiEugenio who managed to examine sixty thousand documents that have been declassified, yet no one has talked about it. The attempt was once again to bury the case, cover it up, not attract attention to it, exactly as it happened at the time with the Warren report. ‘

Tom Hanks is also producing a Kennedy movie.
«I have known. Whenever new facts emerge, a new form of fiction is proposed regarding those events to try to divert attention. Something similar had already happened in 2014, with programs on public cable broadcasters, as if to wipe out any possibility of an alternative theory. It has been happening systematically since ’64. Tom Hanks believes in the American myth and is still convinced that America is going the right way, he espoused the anti-plot theory of the lawyer Vincent Bugliosi, among other things refuted by DiEugenio point by point. You can call those like Tom Hanks optimists, but I don’t think they’re realistic. ‘

When did you stop believing in the American dream?
«I still partially believe in it, I was born under the influence of the American myth and I don’t feel like a revolutionary at all. I am an “evolutionary”, if anything. My father was a capitalist, I like to believe in socialism, but I fear it would never work because in America ideals will always prevail such as the freedom to do, to improve, to progress and to accumulate money, more and more money, too much money, killing any competition. “.

What do you answer to those who for decades have defined you as an outsider?
“I feel American, I served my country in Vietnam. Only, I wanted a country that sought peace rather than negotiating conflicts and preparing for wars as it does all the time, spending billions upon billions. We make deals with contractors based on bribery, errors, overshooting and there is no control and no punishment. We continue to prepare for war without interruption, relying on people’s fear: we invest billions in invisible fighters without ever using them, wouldn’t it be more useful to spend that money on education or on the streets? America is obsessed with war and defense, there will come a day when we can use our powerful arsenal, as has already happened in Iran, Iraq and now Afghanistan. We tested some big bombs and they didn’t work. The truth is that since Kennedy no president has been able to challenge the military and intelligence, or to reduce the defense budget that increases disproportionately every year. Biden himself, who withdrew the troops from Afghanistan, shows no sign of reducing this budget ”.

He named Kennedy again. Isn’t it that after a fiction film, two documentaries and a TV series, you are thinking of shooting a biopic about him, as you did for example with “Snowden”?
“I could do it, and I could surprise you. Among other things, I could have further material available: Trump promised the publication of the documents still classified in 2017, the last FBI and CIA convinced him that it was not possible and changed his mind. I trust that the Catholic Joe Biden remembers Kennedy and the more than two thousand documents still top secret ».

How does it relate to Hollywood and its taboos?
«Hollywood is National Security Cinema. They teach you that you will never be successful if you make political films, yet I with “JFK. On the trail of the killers ”I had it, and also with“ Salvador ”. It’s all about making the topic interesting and knowing how to entertain without boring. As for the taboos, today homosexuality is no longer a taboo, it was cleared by “Will & Grace” and I myself told it in my “Alexander”. The real taboo in Hollywood, if anything, is sex: it’s not a problem to see two men kissing, but two people fucking yes, whatever their gender and age. We are still a puritanical and moralistic country ».

There is a lot of talk about inclusion in the American star system and beyond, but is there a real inclusion of those who are “different” even at the political level?
“There are conservative films that do very well at the box office, because people love preconceived ideas and love to see them brought back to the screen. The public loves repetition, seeing faces that are always the same, films that are often similar to each other, is a way to keep the “American cinema” system intact and identical to itself. Fortunately, there is also an evolutionary, experimental cinema, in which new things are sought and there is room for change. They are films that have a very difficult path, they encounter a thousand obstacles to be financed, to circulate and be distributed, seen, accepted. It takes time”.

Has it even happened to you that you have difficulty in obtaining funding for your projects?
“I have found myself several times experiencing this“ avant-garde ”situation, let’s call it that. The name doesn’t matter if you have a project in your hands that they find somehow inconvenient. It happened to me with “JFK – A case still open”, with “Natural Born Killers”, even with my twelve hour documentary “USA – The Story Untold”, which should be shown in schools to give them a clear idea. , less propaganda and more radical than our history ».

His is a cinema that knows how to speak to the new generations. Do your children have something to do with this, do you involve them in your projects?
«By now my children (Sean, Tara and Michael Jack Stone, ed.) Are adults and have their own life, I certainly don’t force them to see my films. Maybe they see them as well, but they don’t have to be part of it or tell me what they think. However, I like to have an open dialogue with the new generations. Not loving those who pretend to be young, I won’t be the one to do it, I just try to keep curiosity high and alive for what is happening. And I remain an idealist: I hope that those who share my ideas will continue to follow me ».

Source: L'Espresso – News, inchieste e approfondimenti Espresso by espresso.repubblica.it.

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