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Running Time
97 minutes


ETHEL is a feature-length documentary about the remarkable life of Ethel Kennedy, told by those who know Ethel best: her family. Directed by her Emmy® Award-winning daughter, Rory Kennedy, the film features candid interviews with Ethel and seven of her children. The film is a personal portrait of Ethel’s political awakening, the life she shared with Robert F. Kennedy, and the years following his death when she raised their 11 children on her own.  Intimate, funny, and deeply moving, ETHEL offers a rare look inside a political dynasty strengthened by family bonds, a compassion for others, and a wisdom forged from both hardship and triumph.  The film is scheduled to be seen on HBO in 2012.

Filmmaker Notes:

For as long as I can remember, when meeting someone for the first time, I often hear, “You must be Robert Kennedy’s daughter.” It’s a nice thing to be told and of course it’s true, but I always remind anyone who says this that I am also Ethel Kennedy’s daughter. The fact is I never knew my father. He died when my mother was four months pregnant with me, the last of their 11 children. And while my father’s legacy — his moral courage and strength of purpose — touches everything I do, it’s my mother who raised me.Making this film about my mother has been a rare privilege. How many of us have had the chance to sit down with either one of our parents and ask him or her everything we’ve ever wanted to know? Yet this is what I did, cameras rolling, over the course of five days in the fall of 2010.That my mother agreed to speak with me in this way was deeply meaningful. She had not given an interview in more than 20 years, and she does not particularly like talking about herself. So I was moved by her trust in me, just as I was daunted by the responsibility such a trust entailed.From the start, I knew that I wanted to capture some greater truth about who my mother is — her love for my father and her faith in God, her crackling sense of humor and her inexhaustible drive. I wanted to tell my mother’s story through the lens of her own experience, but also to hear it from those who know her best — my brothers and sisters. It was to be a film about her life with my father and her life after my father was gone, a film about our family, but about more than that, too. After all, my parents’ history is intertwined with our nation’s larger history — from the Cold War to the Civil Rights movement, from the War on Poverty to the war in Vietnam. At its heart, I wanted the film to be a deep and enduring love story about two people who were lucky to find each other, and who drew strength from each other amid the extraordinary social upheaval that surrounded them.Making this film has been quite an experience for me on a personal level. But part of my hope is that, in sharing my mother’s story, others might take away their own insights — something to be learned, maybe, about my mother or my family, or about our collective American past.

Film details
Year(s) screened
  • 2012
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