"I think her first time watching ['Ethel'] was hard mostly because she was self-conscious watching herself like any of us would be watching ourselves on television," Rory said of her mother. "But I think she appreciates the film and appreciates I did it and she's very positive about it."
One of the most fascinating aspects of the documentary is it shows how Ethel maintains her strong faith and love of life despite the early deaths of her parents, husband and two sons.
"I think it's really her nature and she does have such a natural love of life and people and she has such a competitive drive, but it's really a drive to keep going and to make the most of every moment," Rory said. "And I think, also, religion really had a big impact on her and gave her tools to get through difficult times."
Helping flesh out the portrait of Ethel in the documentary are several of Rory's siblings.
"I'm the youngest of 11, so my older siblings -- Kathleen, Joe and Bobby -- had very different experiences growing up than Chris, Max, Douglas and I, who are on the younger end of the spectrum. For example, my older siblings have direct memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis whereas my younger siblings weren't even born then or were too young to remember," RFK's youngest child said. "So, there were a lot of perspectives and mostly dictated by age."
While much has been said in the past about her father's words and actions during those turbulent times in our nation's history, Rory said her family's experiences during that era have not been fully explored until now.
"To be able to kind of step back from his perspective and look at 'What was it like for my mother? What was it like for my siblings to live through that time? What kind of choices were available to them?'" Rory said, referring to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. "They had the option to leave and go to a safe place and they decided to stay and what was that like? And looking at it from a slightly different perspective for me was unique and with new knowledge was kind of an interesting way to think about it.
"I had always read about my father standing up to (Teamsters Union President) Jimmy Hoffa and showing such courage and it was a very difficult time. But what was it like ... my mother was being threatened, her life was being threatened and her children were being threatened. What was it like for them to live during those times? To kind of get that perspective, as well, I hope, adds something new to the mix."
While Rory expects the film to be embraced by older viewers who might remember her father and his contributions firsthand, she said she also hopes it will teach young people about her family's efforts to make the country a better place and inspire them to try to do the same.
"It's great to show it to older people because I think it speaks to them on a very personal level and I think so many people went through what our family went through at the same time and through these same events and so it speaks to them on a very personal level, but it's really exciting for me to show it to younger people, many of whom have very little exposure and knowledge of this time in our nation's history and certainly don't feel connected to it and I think because it is a personal story, it doesn't feel like spinach. It feels like you can feel emotionally connected to it. Young kids come out of it and they're really jazzed by it and feel like they want to learn more about this history. Also, I've heard so many people say, 'I want to give back.' Or, 'I want to commit myself to community service.' And also, 'For the first time, I can see how politics can make a difference and how leadership plays such a huge role.'"
"Ethel" premieres Thursda, Oct. 18, on HBO.
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