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Kennedy Assassination in Zapruder’s Film vs. Conner’s Report

Introduction

In view of the John F. Kennedy assassination which could still evoke debate and un-resolved discussion, it is important to stick to facts and reality which could be at best presented in the form of actual footage, coverage, and narration of witnesses to the event. While various interpretations and emotions may be evoked with actual footage or even documentations, the viewer or audience should at most remain attentive to the limitations of visual representations as these are subject to other realities that occurred prior to, during, and after an actual depiction of an event.

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This paper shall try to compare two forms of narration or documentation using Alexander Zapruder’s film and Bruce Conner’s A Report to answer the following:

  • Does lack of professionalism give it a more realistic look or is the Zapruder film really powerful because, For Americans, it film creates an emotional response?
  • Does Zapruder film an actual “documentary” or was it accidental?
  • What does Bruzzi meant by the “accidental” documentary? Do you think there can be accidental documentaries?

Discussion

The Zapruder Film

The Zapruder film is considered the most complete video recording of the presidential motorcade of John F. Kennedy through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. It was a silent 8 mm color home movie filmed by Abraham Zapruder. The film recorded the Presidential motorcade depicting the time that the presidential limousine had rounded the corner from Houston Street until it passed out of view under a railway overpass most specifically valued for the inclusion of the fatal shot to President Kennedy’s head on the exact moment his limousine was almost exactly in front of and slightly below Zapruder’s position (Bugliosi, 2007).

It used a Model 414 PD Bell & Howell Zoomatic Director Series Kodak Kodachrome II 8 mm movie safety film Camera which operated via a spring-wound mechanism. It has an average of 18.3 frames per second and consisted of 486 frames or 26.6 seconds. In those, the presidential limousine was seen in 343 frames or 18.7 seconds (Bugliosi, 2007).

The Warren Commission published the film in black and white frames as Commission Exhibit 885 in volume XVIII of the Hearings and Exhibits. It was also published in books, by Life magazine, and on the internet. It was considered culturally significant by the United States Library of Congress in 1994 and was selected for permanent preservation in the National Film Registry.

Oliver Stone used many portions of the film in the 1991 movie JFK (Bugliosi, 2007).

A Report by Bruce Conner

Bruce Conner is an artist known for his works in film, drawing, sculpture, photography, collage and probably more forms of media. His Report is a “fragmentary, harrowing attempt to come to terms with the circumstances of the Kennedy assassination, and especially, in light of the infamous Zapruder tape that captured the event, to understand what it means to document or report on an event like this,” (Howard, 2008). It utilized footage from Zapruder as well as various other news outlets dubbed with radio voiceover in reportorial or live coverage announcement manner in a non-traditional and definitely his own artistic way. At most, it was an “interpretation” of Conner’s version of understanding the JFK assassination.

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  • Does lack of professionalism give it a more realistic look or is the Zapruder film really powerful because, for Americans, the film creates an emotional response?

No, the lack of professionalism gave credence to the Zapruder film as much as an innocent, un-provoked child narrating an actual account of what he or she has just seen. It was undiluted, so to speak. It does not at all create an emotional response as it is but due to the importance of its subject, none other than the head of a nation or state, as well as the event which was an assassination, made it powerful, not specifically emotional but very important.

  • Does Zapruder film an actual “documentary” or was it accidental?

The Zapruder film is an “accidental” documentary as it was probably just fancy or devotion that led Zapruder to film the presidential motorcade, as much as a movie fan would take photos or film video of a favorite actor in more normal settings such as a “motorcade”. Documentary today has evolved to mean the depiction of a certain story or narration in its most natural circumstance as was first used by New York Sun reviewer John Grierson referring to Robert Flaherty’s 1926 film Moana (Grierson, 1926). Accidental or documentary, the Zapruder films, however, achieved importance beyond question for its content, and not for its purpose.

  • What does Bruzzi meant by the “accidental” documentary? Do you think there can be accidental documentaries?

Bruzzi acknowledges that a documentary is “a representational mode of filmmaking” so that accidental documentary is another form of visual representation which may or may not deliver the whole content of an event.

To be able to understand the implication of “accidental documentary”, there is a need to fully understand what a documentary is, which, in the first place, has an objective or end goal prior to undertaking.

While “accidental documentary” can stand alone as having its own merits and value for purposes of presentation of facts or actual narration, it could not, in whole, depict a complete agenda, or a story such as that of Zapruder’s film in the John F. Kennedy Assassination. In itself, the film depicted the motorcade and even the actual assassination itself but it was not able to encompass all the actors depicted in the event, and this includes the “true” assassin or even the “motive” for the assassination.

  • Please talk about the similarities and the differences between the Zapruder film and the Conner’s Report. Are they both documentaries? If not what can we call them? What type of message do they give out? If they are different then how so? Please be specific and give examples.

The similarities between the Zapruder film and Conner’s Report are that both used actual film footage as a form of documentation. More so as Conner using Zapruder’s coverage, but similarities end there.

Both can be said as documentaries but differing in format or kind. Zapruder’s is what we may call an accidental documentary, which is in itself, the rawest material in the documentation that simply covered a certain event, which is the presidential motorcade in Dallas that fateful day. As it is, it provides very basic visual information from a single source and material, that there had been a motorcade and that in the motorcade, the president was shot.

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Conner’s on the other hand is an exploratory documentary, which put together several footage from various sources, with collage and overlapping messages, supported by both visual and audio, with the effect of forming a strong opinion on the viewer. Differences also lie in the aftermath of viewing both documentaries: there is the absence of conflicting opinions in Zapruder’s, while Conner’s provoked the audience to form an opinion as to the motive or what the assassination could imply: chaos, anger, anarchy. This may be said with the radio reportage provided in the Conner’s Report, which was absent in Zapruder’s.

Conclusion

In deciding the impact and truthfulness of a “documentary”, one cannot but consider the subjectivity of a presentation, to encompass both the presenter and the audience. Zapruder’s film is an important element of documentation, a visual representation of an actual event unfolding without a prior script to its importance: there was a motorcade itinerary being followed, but only a limited few (if it was plural at all) knew of the existence of an assassination script, or plan.

At most, the Zapruder film presents practitioners an element on documentation, which is the inclusion of passing, normal occurrences such as a motorcade, for a probable depiction of a more important event or occurrence, which was the assassination.

As for Conner, he at most did present a very subjective representation of what he wanted viewers to see, hear, and learn about in the process, not so much to present a fact but to culminate an opinion or understanding, which is of course influenced, and biased.

Reference

Bruzzi, Stella. New Documentary (Second Edition).

Ed Howard (2008). “Bruce Conner shorts: A Movie; Report”. Web.

Bugliosi, Vincent (2007) Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. W.W. Norton.

Grierson, John (1926). Review: Moana. The New York Sun on 1926 by “The Moviegoer”.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, September 23). Kennedy Assassination in Zapruder’s Film vs. Conner’s Report. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/kennedy-assassination-in-zapruders-film-vs-conners-report/

Reference

StudyCorgi. (2021, September 23). Kennedy Assassination in Zapruder’s Film vs. Conner’s Report. https://studycorgi.com/kennedy-assassination-in-zapruders-film-vs-conners-report/

Work Cited

"Kennedy Assassination in Zapruder’s Film vs. Conner’s Report." StudyCorgi, 23 Sept. 2021, studycorgi.com/kennedy-assassination-in-zapruders-film-vs-conners-report/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Kennedy Assassination in Zapruder’s Film vs. Conner’s Report." September 23, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/kennedy-assassination-in-zapruders-film-vs-conners-report/.


Bibliography


StudyCorgi. "Kennedy Assassination in Zapruder’s Film vs. Conner’s Report." September 23, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/kennedy-assassination-in-zapruders-film-vs-conners-report/.

References

StudyCorgi. 2021. "Kennedy Assassination in Zapruder’s Film vs. Conner’s Report." September 23, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/kennedy-assassination-in-zapruders-film-vs-conners-report/.

References

StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Kennedy Assassination in Zapruder’s Film vs. Conner’s Report'. 23 September.

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