Film and TV

A Sneak Preview of National Geographic's JFK Doc, Which Doubles as Local Media History

Just spent the better part of an hour watching a rough cut of National Geographic Channel's The Lost JFK Tapes: The Assassination, a found-footage doc that makes its debut Monday at 8 p.m. C.S.T. Those burned out on Last Day of JFK documentaries need to take note: It's not another rehashing of the events of November 22, 1963, not one more conspiracy-theory hodgepodge, but a crisply assembled film made exclusively from local TV and radio stations' as-it-happened, breaking-news accounts of John and Jackie's visit to Fort Worth and Dallas.

Above you'll find National Geographic Channel's trailer for the doc, which was just posted. But those eager to sneak peek The Lost JFK Tapes, which also uses audio from Parkland Hospital and Dallas police, can see it at 1 p.m. tomorrow at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. The screening's absolutely free.

Gary Mack, the museum's curator, tells Unfair Park that Tom Jennings began assembling the film, oh, around 1995, when the museum had just received all of Channel 4's video and audio tapes for sake keeping. Jennings, based in Los Angeles, offered a swap: He would get first-use right to the footage if he paid for its transfer and remastering. To which the museum said, Sure, absolutely.

"And he was astonished with what he saw," says Mack. "Most people think that most Kennedy footage is funky, out of focus and poor, but it's terrific. ... Some of the stuff [in the documentary] was considered outtakes back then and not of any use, but that's when he got the idea of marrying the footage with some of the radio reports."

Eventually, the museum would also receive Channel 8, Channel 11 and WFAA radio's archives; it's also storing footage from Channel 5. Mack says "97 percent" of the film consists of material from the museum's archives.

"To see this thing upon completion, it was mind-boggling to me," Mack says. "If you sat in your easy chair in Dallas in 1963 and changed the channel at all the right moments, that's what this is. Anyone watching will understand the amazing history of how this story developed. This is the real history, not history told by someone else. This is history as told by its participants."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky