'JFK Destiny Betrayed': Oliver Stone's new take on the Kennedy assassination

JFK: Destiny Betrayed
Documentary directed by Oliver Stone
Streaming on Docplay

US president John Fitzgerald Kennedy was publicly assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. As the whole world knows, the circumstances of his murder as reported by the official Warren Commission have remained controversial until today.

Hollywood director Oliver Stone made a dramatised film about Kennedy’s death in 1991, JFK. The final credits said that thousands of pages of assassination records were still held by the US government.

The debate about the conspiracy hypothesis he depicted resulted in the establishment of the Assassination Records Review Board, which has overseen the declassification of the hoard.

Basing himself on this new flood of evidence Stone has returned to the fray with this four-episode, four-hour long documentary. There is certainly a large quantity of information undermining the Warren Commission narrative, but parts of it are of questionable quality.

Stone nails the failures of the Warren Commission, but his case that the CIA was responsible for the murder is not so certain. The newly released records show that Lee Harvey Oswald was a CIA operative for at least five years before the assassination but Stone cannot demonstrate a direct connection.

The series feels like a whole lot of arguments have been thrown against the wall and some of it does not stick.

Some of the researchers he interviews come across as fixated conspiracy theorists, the sort of people who think that if two events occurred at around the same time then they must be linked without any further evidence being necessary.

The Warren Commission found there was only one shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, and that he shot Kennedy from behind. Stone uses the Super 8 film shot by a bystander, Abraham Zapruder, to show clearly that Kennedy was shot from the front.

The vision of Kennedy’s head exploding from the bullet is terrible to see.

Stone then proceeds to take apart the succeeding process, focusing on every bullet, every fragment, the autopsy, what happened to Kennedy’s brain and more minutiae than you can take in. The names, the faces, the claims based on weird hearsay evidence all swirl together after a while.

Stone is making it easier for viewers by releasing a two-hour long cinema version as well.

A tantalising thread of evidence that Stone mentions in passing but does not follow is the Mafia interest in silencing Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald’s killer, Jack Ruby was a mobster and phone records for the time immediately following the assassination show he was talking with many of the top Mafiosi in the US. Then he travelled to Dallas and murdered Oswald.

Stone uses snippets from his 1991 film to dramatise his case, but he does not use the segment of his interview with Fidel Castro in Commandante, where they talked about the assassination, even though it is probably the most pertinent.

Castro said Oswald could not have used the rifle alleged to have been used by him. The reason was that it was the same model that Castro had used in the Sierra Maestra campaign, so he was aware of its weaknesses. Its recoil was so strong that after every shot the telescopic sight had to be readjusted.

Such a weapon simply could not have been effective with a moving target and three shots could not have been fired from it in the few seconds the Warren Commission estimated.

The last of the assassination records still in US government hands are due for release in November 2022 and no doubt Oliver Stone will be back on the case.

[The trailer for JFK: Destiny Betrayed can be viewed .]