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Daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, filmmaker Rory Kennedy, visits Brenau to talk about work

POSTED: April 7, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Robin Michener Nathan/The Times

Rory Kennedy answers questions from students before a screening of one of her films in Pearce Auditorium on Thursday night.

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GAINESVILLE — Rory Kennedy, youngest daughter of the late Attorney General and U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and his wife, Ethel, spent Thursday in Gainesville at Brenau University, meeting with students and talking about her documentary work.

The Women’s Center at Brenau University and Office of the Provost co-sponsored the event, with other financial support coming from Gainesville lawyer Wyc Orr and his wife, Lyn, who funded the Aileen Grace and Emogene Gaskins Women’s Studies Endowment in honor of their mothers.

Kennedy met with students in a question-and-answer session.

She later presented "The Camera Doesn’t Lie: Social Change through Documentary Filmmaking" at Pearce Auditorium, showing clips from some of her documentaries.

"In each of these stories I document, I like to think there’s hope," Kennedy said.

In an interview with The Times before the two events, she talked about her work and her political leanings.

She said she became interested in filmmaking while doing her final paper on women and substance abuse.

"As I was doing research and interviewing people for the paper, I found their stories very compelling," Kennedy said.

"And so I decided that if I could get them to show their own stories to a larger audience that you could possibly change policies that were put in place at the time to criminalize women who were pregnant and addicted."

She said she never had taken a film class in her life.

"I just loved every part of the process ... and I continue to learn so much with every project," Kennedy said.

Kennedy produced a film last year about the notorious prison in Iraq where U.S. personnel were accused of torture and other abuses of prisoners.

In "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib," she featured interviews with prisoners, court-martialed abusers, witnesses of the abuse, military personnel and legal experts, among others.

Much of her other work deals with social issues, particularly issues related to women and those in the South, including her 1999 film, "America Hollow," about a struggling Appalachian family.

She was the executive producer of "Street Fight," which was nominated for an Academy Award for documentary feature in 2006.

Kennedy’s own life is tied to history.

She was born six months after her father was assassinated on June 5, 1968, on the night he secured enough primary delegates to virtually assure him the Democratic presidential nomination.

"As a member of one of the most media-hounded families in history, Rory Kennedy made her own mark by using the power of the media not as a tool to promote anybody’s celebrity status but as a means of calling attention to marginalized people and important issues," said Heather Casey, director of the Women’s Center.

Kennedy also advocates for several social activism organizations and sits on the board of numerous nonprofit organizations.

And recently, she publicly endorsed U.S. Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"He has a potential for greatness," Kennedy said in Thursday’s interview. "He’s a work in progress, I understand that. But ... President Lincoln was a (one-term) congressman and, as a country, we took a risk there.

"I think this is a time where it’s important to take that leap of faith."



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