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Cory Taylor in Marin Independant Journal

Documentary re-examines JFK’s role as peacemaker

By Vicki Larson
Marin Independent Journal
11/13/2013 10:00:00 PM PST

Cory Taylor would like his documentary to “change your view of Kennedy forever.”

That’s what flashes at the ending of the trailer to “JFK: A President Betrayed,” his 91-minute film, narrated by Morgan Freeman, which will be screened Nov. 17 at the Rafael Film Center. November is the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

It has nothing to do with the sex scandals or the conspiracy theories that surround the life and death of America’s 35th president.

“There was something in his leadership that gave people a sense of hope, that our greatest export in this country was not our arms, for instance, but was our moral fiber. We wanted to explore what’s behind the idealism,” says Taylor, 48, a San Anselmo native and a Sir Francis Drake High grad. “We didn’t want to make a film about his assassination, but about what did he actually do to piss people off to the degree that he might become some sort of threat to the status quo.”

As he and his filmmaking partner and producer Darin Nellis delved deeper into Kennedy’s life, from reading some 50 books, declassified papers and interviewing 25 authors, academics and advisors, however, they discovered that Kennedy had been working behind-the-scenes to seek peace with then Russian President Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban leader Fidel Castro, reversing deeply entrenched pro-war government policy. Kennedy was also determined to get out of Vietnam despite fierce opposition from his own administration, Taylor says.

As always, Kennedy pushed for dialog. The film, he says, considers how things might be different had Kennedy not been assassinated.

“There was a growing commitment that Kennedy had toward peace and toward this belief in diplomatic solutions to mitigate conflict, and he was going to risk enormous political capital in order to pursue those avenues,” Taylor says.

“This is really significant because it’s not to blame the Vietnam War on (undersecretary of state for political affairs) Averell Harriman, but if this seasoned diplomat at the state department subverted Kennedy’s wishes to green light the beginnings of some kind of diplomatic channels with the North Vietnamese, and if you consider that 14 years later you had 2 million people in southeast Asia dead as a result of that war as well as 65,000-plus Americans, this is not a light matter.”

A screenshot from San Anselmo native Cory Taylor ’s documentary, ’JFK: A President Betrayed.’Courtesy of Cory Taylor
A screenshot from San Anselmo native Cory Taylor ‘s documentary, ‘JFK: A President Betrayed.’ Courtesy of Cory Taylor
His documentary, he says, questions just who Kennedy’s real enemies were.

Taylor has long had an interest in the Kennedys, in part because his father, Drake High coach Bill Taylor, was the former county chairman for Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Taylor says his father held him as a boy on his shoulders to see Robert Kennedy speak in San Francisco at a campaign appearance in 1968 shortly before his assassination.

“My dad was profoundly changed by the death of the Kennedys. As was emblematic of so many of his generation, the killing of the Kennedys, including the assassination of Martin Luther King, was sort of a demarcation in U.S. history,” he says. “We see from that a growth of cynicism and apathy.”

Taylor is hopeful that his film especially resonates with younger people, who seem to have lost faith in public service.

“People don’t trust politicians, but in the public arena, and in terms of public service, there are great opportunities,” he says. “Kennedy presents a model of an alternative that will hopefully inspire people.”

Vicki Larson can be reached at; follow her on Twitter at @OMGchronicles, fan her on Facebook at Vicki-Larson-OMG-Chronicles

if you go

What: “JFK: A President Betrayed” with director Cory Taylor
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 17
Where: Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael
Admission: $6.50 to $10.75
Information: 454-1222;