This historic and touching document follows President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, grandson proud Irish immigrants, on a 4-day visit to ancient family homeland. Landing at Dublin Airport on June 26, 1963, he visited both small hamlet and big city, entertaining all with warm words, and honest smile. To understand a man, especially one this complex, you must look at his past. Mere words shed only some light on the O'Kennedy clan's 1000-year-old history. To give you a true sense of from whence they came, we've carefully interwoven footage of accurate reenactments and rare vintage film reels.
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I was particularly struck by the high quality of the news footage of the President during his trip. It looks fairly sharp and the colors are extremely good for news footage filmed over 40 years ago. Those portions of the documentary that are focused on Ireland's history often use theatrical recreations to tell the story, but there is some remarkable newsreel footage of the Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin that, alone, is worth the price of the DVD. The releasing company for this DVD, S'more Entertainment, has included some interesting and historically important extras that make it a valuable audio/visual reference for those interested in our nation's 35th President. Here's the rundown of the special features:
1. Speeches (black & white):
Houston - 9/12/60
Rice University - 9/12/62
Berlin - 6/26/63
2. Newsreels (black & white):
James Meredith enrolls at University of Mississippi in Oxford - 9/30/62
Cuban Blockade announced - 10/22/62
Cuban Blockade lifted - 11/21/62
Test Ban Treaty announced at American University Graduation - 6/10/63
Test Ban Treaty Signed - 8/5/63
3. Kennedy Home Videos (color)
In particular, the President's announcement of the Cuban missile blockade is gripping and forceful. As a nine year old at the time, I was much too young to understand the implications of the crisis and now, looking back at this newsreel footage, am thankful that we had a leader who had the courage of his convictions to stop the delivery of Soviet missiles to Cuba. The disc closes with some silent home movies of the President, accompanied by audio of the famous speech "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" as the visuals unfurl.
Within the context of his abbreviated term as President of the United States of America, the four days that John F. Kennedy spent visiting Ireland in June of 1963 are largely forgotten. "O'Kennedy's Ireland" reminds us of that visit and is a tribute to both JFK and his Irish heritage . . . it's a valuable record of that historic trip and is a worthwhile view for those interested in John F. Kennedy and his ancestral ties to Ireland.
But the entire Kennedy mystique is not simply an American phenomenon. Rather, across the globe there is an interest in the history of the Kennedy family. But perhaps the only place to come as close as America in its love for the Kennedy story is none other than the Kennedy's homeland in Ireland.
The documentary O'Kennedy's Ireland is a rather short biographical look at President John F. Kennedy's Irish ancestry and the following that he commanded when he went to Ireland on a visit as President.
Kennedy in 1963 traveled to Ireland for a four day visit to his native land and was welcomed home lovingly like a rock star more so than a politician. Swarms of Irish men, women and children came out to all the stops Kennedy made hoping to gain a glimpse at the man that went from the Emerald Isle to the White House.
The film directed by Phillip E. Price and released in 2007 relies upon the rather raw and grainy footage left of Kennedy's trip to Ireland. Therefore, while some of the picture quality might not necessarily be the best, only time can be faulted for this.
What can be faulted about this movie, though, is the rather hokey history lesson that works its way into the film and dominates the majority of the film. Rather than focus on simply Kennedy's arrival and visit in Ireland and perhaps some dabbling into his family tree, the movie has an awful re-enactment of Irish history (even not directly related to Kennedy) thrown into the movie.
Though it is certainly important to gain a better appreciation for the history or Ireland and how it shaped Kennedy's background, the movie delves way to deeply into the most remote points of Irish history and the acting portraying historical events was reminiscent more of a Benny Hill spoof than anything that should be taken cinematographically serious.
There would be much more credence paid to this film if it looked more at Kennedy's immediate Irish familial ties and how perhaps they might have had an influence over the direction of Kennedy's life. Though we learn that Kennedy is a descendant of Brian Boru, we don't learn much about Kennedy's grandparents and aunts and uncles that may have stayed in Ireland and what ever might have happened to them.
The other thing that would have been nice to see in this film is a post-assassination look at Ireland and its reaction to Kennedy's death. The film does a nice job showing the wrap up speech of Kennedy at Shannon Airport when he says that he will be back to Ireland soon. Though certainly he could never have predicted his fate to come, a look at how perhaps the media portrayed the assassination or how the Irish that lined the streets cheering for and waving at Kennedy took the news of his passing would have provided for a more robust look at the topic.
O'Kennedy's Ireland barely skims the surface of the information that could have been presented relative to President Kennedy's visit to Ireland and his close-knit ties to the home of his ancestors. The topic is lost in the poorly produced and almost comedic historic re-enactments of Irish history and what the viewer is about to learn is really nothing more than could be found by a simply Internet search.