The assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy remains a topic of conversation amongst historians and the general public. And amid those discussions, it's not uncommon for one to bring up the vast number of conspiracy theories that have dominated the story in the 60 years since Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, Texas. Documentaries, movies, and TV specials have spent countless hours diving into theories about anyone and everyone being involved. (Errol Morris notably sought to reexamine the case.) Despite all of that, 2023 TV schedule entry JFK: One Day in America takes a different approach. In fact, the three-part National Geographic Channel docuseries from the producers of the emotional September 11th documentary, 9/11: One Day in America, had a very good reason for that.
In an interview with CinemaBlend, director Ella Wright and producers Charlotte Rodrigues and David Glover all addressed their work. In doing so, they explained why they felt JFK: One Day in America didn’t really need to fully tackle that part of the story. As Wright pointed out, there were other aspects she found more interesting:
I just found exploring the emotion of that day more interesting than the conspiracy. I felt like we were bringing something different to the story, and retelling it in a way that hadn't been done before. I was very happy just to be focusing on those personal experiences and that emotion.
Instead of taking a colder and “outside looking in” approach to the tragic event, the three-part show is told through the stories of those who were present on that fateful November 1963 afternoon. That includes Secret Service agents, journalists and spectators who wanted to welcome President Kennedy to Texas.
This angle -- which is a more emotional and human side of the historical event -- was what producer Charlotte Rodrigues wanted to cover with this series, which was made in conjunction with the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. Rodrigues explained:
It was about really kind of delving deep into the emotional testimonies of these key eyewitnesses, and actually to really live in the archive as well, because so often with documentaries, they’re edited in such a way that it’s very fast paced and the audience doesn’t have the time to sort of live in it and immerse yourself in it and fall in love with people in a way, and hopefully we’ve done that.
Since the the series is largely told through the perspective of those who were on the ground that day as the events transpired, the producer believed JFK: One Day in America didn’t really have anything to add to the conspiracy angle. And by steering away from that, the creative team was apparently able to create something they felt was more authentic:
What we wanted to do was almost do something which was more, almost telling the story in present tense as though it's unfolding in front of your eyes with the people who are there. And that allows you to kind of time travel back to that time and experience it rather than intellectualize about it, so you then get an emotional feeling about it, a bit like you are watching a movie, but it's real.
The docuseries does briefly touch on some conspiracy theories about the assassination but in a way that play more into the confusion of November 22, 1963, and the collective grief experienced by the nation in its aftermath. But again, one shouldn’t go into this expecting to learn about conspiracies like those in the great Kevin Costner movie, JFK, or to hear a discussion with Oliver Stone about the claims explored in his 1991 crime thriller. The team behind this latest production took a unique route that could surely separate the final product from its predecessors.