Movies We Like
RFK Must Die: The Assassination of Bobby Kennedy
As a hardcore JFK assassination buff (what red-blooded American kid didn’t go through that phase and read Mark Lane’s amazing book Rush To Judgment?), I have to admit, I generally thought that it was kind of a given that Sirhan Sirhan was the lone gunman in brother Bobby’s murder. There have been some swirling conspiracy theories in the back of my head but I never acknowledged them, thinking the assassination of RFK was pretty much an open and shut case. But Shane O’Sullivan's documentary on everything you could ever want to know about the case is very persuasive in making its claim that there is more than meets the eye. Like the JFK case, what makes it more suspicious is the effort that was put forth by law enforcement (LAPD and the FBI) to convince witnesses that they didn’t actually see or experience what they think they saw and experienced. RFK Must Die: The Assassination of Bobby Kennedy may be the quintessential document on the case with some stunning information and footage that I had no idea was available to the public.
Director O’Sullivan proves to be a smart unbiased filmmaker; he lets some of his dramatic conclusions contradict themselves when they don’t fully add up as neatly as a Hollywood story. He’s not fully sure where the information will take him so therefore he does not appear to be driving the story in one direction. The material just so happens to lead to the conclusion that something odd happened that night at the Ambassador Hotel.
Robert Kennedy became a New York state senator after being the Attorney General in his brother’s administration. He proved to be much more liberal and compassionate to the down and out than the average rich kid turned politician. When Lyndon Johnson decided not to seek a second presidential term, Kennedy saw his chance to jump into the race as the "anti war candidate" with the Vietnam War dividing the country and the Democratic party. After Martin Luther King was killed (another case with lingering doubts), he spoke movingly to a crowd of black voters, "my brother was also killed by a white man…" Two weeks later he won California and looked like he had the Democratic nomination locked. That night at The Ambassador in Los Angeles he gave a victory speech, headed for the kitchen, and was shot and killed just out of camera view.
On the news after the shooting that night, a young woman reported that she saw two Latino men (Sirhan was dark skinned) enter where Kennedy was shot with an attractive woman in a polka-dot dress. Then later one of the men exited with the woman who proclaimed, "We killed Kennedy." The FBI interviewed this woman about what and whom she saw. On tape you can hear the FBI agent badger and harass the woman, telling her you didn’t see this woman, you are wrong. Finally after hours and hours of this she relents and signs a paper saying she did not see it. Another witness reported seeing Sirhan with the attractive woman, just before the shooting. Sirhan's attorney brought none of this up when he stood trial and was put away for life. He claimed - and still claims - that he doesn’t recall any of it, he has no memory the shooting. In another interesting tape, he was hypnotized by government doctors to make him recall the event, and you can hear them suggesting over and over to him that he pulled a gun and killed RFK, but he doesn’t relent.
The film does a lot to prove that a number of CIA spooks were in the building that night, real black bag types with ties to the angry Cuban exiles who are often associated with JFK’s would be assassins. But the most interesting and clear fact the film brings up is that days after the assassination LAPD recreated the murder on camer. According to their witnesses and reports, Sirhan was directly in front of RFK about five feet away. Later when the official autopsy came out, it revealed that Kennedy was killed from behind with the gun right at his head. No witness reported that Sirhan was behind and that close to Kennedy. Another gunman? Was Sirhan just a patsy? The film also goes into great detail trying to prove (but not successfully) that perhaps Sirhan was some kind of Manchurian Candidate brainwashed to kill.
In some ways the murder of RFK changed history even more than JFK. RFK may have become the President; instead we got almost eight years of Nixon, which eventually lead to Presidents Carter and then Reagan. Dominos fell. Who knows where history would have taken us without Watergate, with a different conclusion to Vietnam? All this is wrapped up in the guise of a young oddball named Sirhan Sirhan of Palestinian descent who supposedly shot Kennedy as some kind of protest against Israel. What the film reveals and how it reveals it is quite shocking. It’s unbelievable that much of this material exists and so many key people are still alive and were more than willing to point out that the investigators made mistakes. It may not have as many crazy paths as JFK’s assassination, but for pure fascination, RFK’s assassination proves to be just as entertaining.