Donald Boggs’ documentary focuses on a brief but turbulent moment during the 1968 presidential campaign, when Robert F. Kennedy was scheduled to address an Indianapolis rally on the evening of April 4, 1968. Earlier that day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis – but most of the people in the racially mixed crowd who gathered for the Kennedy rally were unaware of the murder.
Kennedy was requested by the local police and then-Mayor (and current Senator) Richard Lugar to cancel the event, out of fears of a race riot. Instead, Kennedy ignored suggestions by aides and speechwriters on what to say, and instead addressed the crowd with a deeply-felt message, which included a very rare public acknowledgment of his pain following his brother’s assassination five years earlier. It was an extraordinary from-the-heart moment that was unusual for the carefully scripted world of politics.
The film interviews surviving members of Kennedy’s campaign team, local reporters and individuals who were gathered at the rally and moved by what took place. Unfortunately, there is overlap and repetition in some of the comments presented here – judicious editing could have erased this. Also, one key element that is missing is the depth of the background relationship between Kennedy and King. This is crucial, considering that Kennedy did not speak personally of his ties to the slain civil rights leader, but instead seemed to define him strictly as a figure within the African American leadership.
Nonetheless, this well-made documentary offers a compelling glimpse into one of the most dramatic moments in the history of the civil rights era – a moment that was made all the more poignant Kennedy was assassinated a mere two months later.