Eye For Film >> Movies >> RFK Must Die: The Assassination Of Bobby Kennedy (2007) Film Review
RFK Must Die: The Assassination Of Bobby Kennedy
Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson
RFK Must Die attempts to shed more light on the assassination of Robert Kennedy by exploring conspiracy theories, but ultimately it serves to strengthen the official story it tries to question.
This is an extended version of a Newsnight piece from 2006. Shane O'Sullivan's first film was based on archive footage that suggested a number of CIA agents were present on the night of the assassination. As one of the talking heads puts it "Morales is in the same place as [Kennedy] when he's assassinated? There's no way they're not connected".
Beyond the presence of the CIA at the Ambassador Hotel on that fateful night, the film investigates Sirhan Sirhan, who, 40 years on, remains in prison. His parole has consistently been denied because he has failed to show regret, this lack in part explained by his inability to remember the events of that evening.
O'Sullivan interviews Dr Herbert Spiegel, a psychiatrist, who contends that Sirhan Sirhan was hypnotically programmed to kill by the CIA, and programmed to forget that he was programmed. Much is made of the fact that he can't remember the event even under hypnosis, and is very easy to hypnotise. The CIA's forays into mind control are mentioned, including MK Ultra and Artichoke, but not their failures. Again and again RFK Must Die mentions something, but makes no effort to make it part of its narrative. It's not clear if this is merely a scattershot investigation or an uncertain meander through some parts of the story.
As is standard with most explorations of "conspiracy theories", Occam's Razor is never mentioned. Instead we get a rare interview with Munir Sirhan, the younger brother and Sirhan Sirhan's only surviving family member. Munir mentions his brother's habit of self-hypnosis, and the title of the film comes from a page of automatic writing found in his notebooks. The film also mentions that on the night of the shooting the usually non-drinking Sirhan Sirhan had four Tom Collins cocktails. The film doesn't mention it, but those are two parts gin.
Again and again RFK Must Die seems to have found something interesting and then shies away from it. It talks about the autopsy report as if it were holy canon, but ignores the repeated mentions of bullet fragments when trying to account for extra bullet holes. It mentions an audio recording that suggests 13 shots were fired, but that interpretation has been subsequently debunked. It also doesn't explore the panic that followed the assassination. Despite repeatedly showing footage of people milling aimlessly around the Ambassador in the aftermath, it seems O'Sullivan never sees the nature of the confusion that follows events of that scale.
Ultimately, RFK's best parts are in its archive footage of Kennedy. There's film of him giving a stump speech when he learns Martin Luther King was assassinated. He tells the crowd, empathises with them, tells them his brother too was "killed by a white man", and then, from memory, quotes from his favourite poet, Aesychlus. It's a stunning speech, a beautiful moment. RFK, whatever his faults, was a politician who quoted Camus.
Some of the film is new, some of it is rare, but it's a mess, inchoate. As is said, it's "not an Agatha Christie murder story where everything is neatly tied up", but RFK Must Die doesn't even seem to try.Reviewed on: 15 May 2008