Virtual JFK: Vietnam if Kennedy Had Lived 

Directed by Koji Matsutani

The what-if theory floated by Koji Masutani’s debut documentary is that our 35th president, had he lived, wouldn’t have continued to escalate the Vietnam War. Masutani and his collaborator, James G. Blight (who was also integral to Errol Morris’s Fog of War), present this theory as something innovative, but really it’s the same lame argument peddled for decades by Kennedy flacks like Arthur Schlesinger Jr. — not to mention Oliver Stone.

As this duo sees it, Kennedy repeatedly and heroically avoided war. (Can you smell the subtext?) But it would be generous to say that they cherry-pick their facts, particularly when discussing Defense Secretary Robert McNamara or the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Their Virtual JFK just doesn’t square with the moral equivocator Tribeca audiences glimpsed earlier this year in Robert Drew’s A President to Remember. Drew’s superior documentary had rare Oval Office footage, including a scene in which Kennedy considers cutting loose his support for civil rights.

Less than a year after Kennedy’s assassination, the now vilified Lyndon Johnson finally passed the Voting Rights Act. Apologies to Masutani — and to Senator Obama— but you can’t find a more virtual JFK than LBJ.

Opens September 17 at Film Forum


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