Errol Morris Investigates the Kennedy Assassination

Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 21 2013 1:27 PM

Errol Morris Investigates the Kennedy Assassination

JFK_Morris_November_22_1963
Errol Morris revisits the Kennedy assassination in a new documentary.

Still from November 22, 1963 on YouTube

Filmmaker Errol Morris is obsessed with getting to the truth of things, even when it seems impossible. He became famous for his 1988 documentary The Thin Blue Line, which proved crucial in freeing a Texas man from prison after he was sentenced to life in jail for the alleged murder of a police officer. More recently, he’s written about the Jeffrey MacDonald case, which was at the heart of Janet Malcolm’s The Journalist and the Murderer.

So it makes sense that Morris would also be intensely interested in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In a new short documentary just released for the New York Times, Morris revisits the case, and explores why it’s proven so unsolvable for him and so many others.

Specifically, Morris focuses on Josiah “Tink” Thompson, an expert with whom Morris is fascinated “because he is obsessed with the photographic evidence.” Thompson is the author of the book Six Seconds in Dallas, which claims to prove that “three gunmen murdered the President.” (Thompson is also finishing up a sequel, Last Second in Dallas.) Morris has said that Six Seconds is “still one of the best books written about the assassination.”

It’s worth noting that this isn’t Morris’ first documentary on the assassination, nor is it the first time he’s interviewed Thompson. In 2011, he made The Umbrella Man, a cautionary tale about conspiracy theories. (The documentary focused on the seemingly mysterious man who held up an umbrella on that sunny day, though, as the documentary details, the umbrella proved to be a red herring.)

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The captivating new documentary, scored to classic pieces by Philip Glass, is about something slightly different. After dedicating nearly a lifetime to the case, Thompson concludes, “People continue to go [to Dealey Plaza] to think they can figure it out. Maybe you can’t.” Morris has heard this and come to his own conclusion: “Is there a lesson to be learned?” he asks. “Yes, to never give up trying to uncover the truth.”

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer.