September 25, 2008
Michael Aushenker , Staff Writer
Documentary filmmaker Chuck Workman is looking ahead at November's
election by looking back. His latest, In Search of Kennedy, contrasts
the life, legacy and myth of President John F. Kennedy with the
McCain-Obama showdown currently unfolding.
On Saturday, September 27, the Pacific Palisades-based Friends of
Film (FOF) will welcome the Academy Award-winning Palisadian at an
outdoor screening of Workman's JFK documentary.
Proceeds will benefit FOF's Sixth Annual Pacific Palisades Film
Festival this spring.
In Search of Kennedy, which premiered at the Seattle International
Film Festival in June, takes an objective look back at our 35th
president and features dozens of commentators including Tom Hayden,
Michael Moore, Garrison Keillor, Chris Matthews, Arianna Huffington,
the late Norman Mailer, and Senators Joseph Biden, Edward Kennedy and
Chris Dodd. Alec Baldwin also contributes to the film.
Workman, 54, has lived in Marquez Knolls for nearly 15 years. He and
his wife, Barbara, moved their family to the Palisades a month before
fires ravaged his former Topanga Canyon community.
"I originally rented a house in the Palisades," Workman recalls. "We
thought we'd be here for a year."
The Workmans' daughter, Gennifer Gardiner, lives in town on
Swarthmore, where she raises their grandchildren, Damian and Kyra.
Their son, Jeremy, works as a filmmaker in New York.
In 1987, Workman received an Oscar for his live-action short,
Precious Images, a film that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the
Directors Guild of America with "close to 500 clips of famous movies
in seven minutes," says Workman, who has also received 10 Emmy
nominations working for the Oscars. He crafts the Academy Awards
telecast's film montages.
"Gil Cates is a great producer and he lets me do my own thing,"
Workman says. "Yes, it's a lot of pressure and politics, but it's
kind of fun." So much fun, he's done it for 20 years.
Workman is no stranger to '60s icons. He made the theatrical
documentaries Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol in 1990,
and 1999's The Source, about Jack Kerouac. Workman also consulted on
the historical footage used in Emilio Estevez's 2006 Robert F.
Kennedy biopic, Bobby.
So why did Workman pick such a shopworn subject as JFK?
"When I was asked to do it [by his producing partner Steve Kurn]," he
says. "My initial reaction was, 'What do we need another Kennedy film
for? Who cares about Kennedy?' As it turns out, everyone cares,
especially in Europe, Africa and South America.
"'Can we use him now?'that's kind of the mantra of the film."
Although he concedes that "the mythic importance of Kennedy is larger
than his achievements," Workman insists that Kennedy was not the
James Dean of U.S. presidents, but the "Abraham Lincoln of modern
presidents . . . he's in the top five among the general public. Both
parties talk about him. A lot of the Republicans say that today
Kennedy would be a Republican."
Workman, who is currently exploring distribution options, explains
that the days of seeing documentaries at your local Laemmle are
numbered. Due to an over-saturation of docs, "Film festivals are
getting less important than even five years ago."
For 2009, Workman is readying a look at avant-garde film pioneer
Jonas Mekas. He has little desire to make Hollywood features,
eschewing formula for freedom.
"In Hollywood, you have to make it for a mass audience, you have to
make it a certain way. With documentary filmmaking, you can do
anything you want."
To attend Saturday's screening, contact Bob Sharka at 310-459-7073.
Tickets: $50. The cocktail hour begins at 6:30 p.m.; screening at
8:15 p.m. Visit FriendsOfFilm.com