ROGER PARADISO is currently the Producer/Director of Searching for Camelot a three-part feature doc examining the fascinating lives of JFK, RFK and Jackie and the world they inhabited called Camelot. His last film, “The Lost Village” is distributed by First Run Features. THE LOST Village is a story about the decline and fall of the bohemian Greenwich Village. A recent film, I WANT MY NAME BACK is the unknown story of the Sugarhill Gang who broke Hip Hop around the world with their landmark song called “Rapper’s Delight”. Toronto Film Scene said: “I Want My Name Back will stand as a classic piece of musical history.”
Past Film credits include Producer/Director/Writer of “Tony ‘N’ Tina’s Wedding” starring Mila Kunis and Adrian Grenier. He was Executive Producer for “City by The Sea”, starring ROBERT De NIRO, FRANCES McDORMAND, and JAMES FRANCO. Mr. Paradiso was the Co- Producer on “The Thomas Crown Affair”, starring PIERCE BROSNAN and RENE RUSSO as well as Co-Producer on “At First Sight”, starring VAL KILMER and MIRA SORVINO.
BCIFF : Who are/were your favourite filmmakers? Could you name a few of your favourite movies?
Many favorites. To name a few: Truffaut (Day for Night; Jules and Jim) Fellini (8 ½ and Amarcord) Godard (Breathless) Lean (Lawrence of Arabia) Huston (The Treasure of Sierra Madre) Allen (Annie Hall) Altman (Nashville and The Player) Scorsese (Goodfellas and The Last Waltz) Coppola (Godfather) Maysles (Salesman and The Beales of Grey Gardens) Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line and A Brief History of Time), and many directors I have worked for Norman Jewison, Woody Allen, John Huston, John McTiernan, on and on
BCIFF : There have been a number of documentaries and films about the assassination of John F. Kennedy and its subsequent impact on the lives of the people close to him. What is different about this particular film?
One it deals with the true passage of history from elder to young people. An oral history.
The history of the Kennedy’s is unpacked and discussed in a way that I haven’t seen before. We spend a lot of time on their childhood and the stories behind the stories that people usually tell. “What is history” Jackie asks?
Then the film, unpacks the Camelot mythology and how it influenced Jackie Kennedy’s story by weaving in events and statements from Jackie. I think our examination of Camelot is unique and important.
It also shows how JFK had a premonition of his murder, the events leading up to one of the greatest murder mysteries of the 20th Century. Robert and Jackie then go on a behind the scenes search for the truth of his murder while trying to get Bobby in the White House to continue the mission for peace and social justice that his brother started. I think we see another side of the Kennedy’s that is not widely known in public told from elders that were there and from the Kennedy’s.
Jacqueline chose to identify this historical period as Camelot. The power of that myth has stuck to this day. It’s an original way to look at history and explore Jackie’s Camelot. I think that is different.
Another reason was I read my sons history book when he was in the sixth grade. At a parents and teachers conference I asked the instructor why there was only a page on the Kennedy presidency. I was told that nothing really happened. When I mention that to one of our historians, Richard Reeves, he laughed and said it could have been the most dramatic presidency since Lincoln.
BCIFF : It is interesting how you have gathered people from different sections of the American Society. Would you mind describing for us the thought behind this?
It was a very democratically diverse group. Most of the Elders were associated with the Kennedy’s in some way and most worked out of or lived in Greenwich Village which was as some was the epicenter for the counter culture in the 1960’s. The counter culture changed the social and art world. The elders were important to teach us, and the young people, the mythology and the history which was the way history has been preserved since the beginning of civilization. Like Napoleon has said “What is History but a fable that we can all agree on”.
The young people were picked from social media and all who came were chosen to work on the project from on camera to behind the camera.
BCIFF : Jackie Kennedy was a prolific writer. Do you think people often overlook the person behind the persona of the first lady? Further do you believe her credibility as an artist has been overlooked due to the overbearing shadow of John F. Kennedy, even after his death.
Jackie was an amazing woman who was the most popular women in the world for many years. She was an artist both in painting and writing, but it was her encouragement of the arts in the White House as well as when she became an editor for several book publishers. She pushed books that might not have been printed. She also brought in a racially diverse group of performing artists to her White House events.
Jackie was hardly a counter culture person, though she threw “twist” parties at the White House. The Twist was a poplar dance back then. She had a long love for history and restoration which she did throughout her professional life. She redecorated the White House into a museum like building which reflected the history of the United States. In later life she became a preservationist famously joining with others to save Grand Central Station and many other buildings and of course helping restoration of her love which was Central Park.
BCIFF : The next question would be in parts. Joseph Campbell discussed about the role mythology played in the life of every individual in opulence. Myths believed Claude Levi Strauss unconsciously dictated a number of actions of an individual every day, even the most mundane ones. How important are myths in the life of an individual?
I am a believer in mythology as something that can inspire people to live lives of passion and hope. But I am not qualified to discuss mythology on the level of Campbell. I’m just a filmmaker.
BCIFF : What exactly is the role these myths play in our lives?
People need hope and inspiration. Some get it in mythology. Others get it another way.
BCIFF : Are these myths powerful enough to influence our lives? Is there a way to exist out of these myths?
I believe Jackie Kennedy created a myth around the tragic reality of her beloved husband and brother-in-law. And that mythology exists today. As does the mythology of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. We explain how the reading of these books as children may have inspired John and Jackie in some way. Like the ancient Greeks, we all have some mythology in our lives and in some way, it allows us to figure out how to live or to get through a difficult time. Mythology guides the lives of many people.
BCIFF : A technical question, in a project where the participation (both direct and indirect) of a number of individuals across various mediums is of paramount importance, could you comment on the nature of managerial abilities required and the estimated production period?
Independent (no corporate money) documentary films are a labor of love. You have to choose a subject that you are passionate about and try to bring in a small crew of people who help you put it together usually for very little money. I find that the crew and your cast have to buy into your dream, your film or it will be too hard to pull it off. Documentaries like these can take years. I started in 2012. It happens in spurts when you can bring people together. And when you raise enough funds because whatever you have raised will never be enough to finish. And when you end up nearing the end you will be doing most of the work by yourself with a few people who are helping you.
And then one day you get into a great festival in Paris like Beyond the Curve. The Festivals, like Beyond the Curve, will save independent film. For many it will be their only distribution. It will be their only way to get on a screen in a theater. Or a platform that reaches many more people than a small film can reach.
BCIFF : How fascinating do you think is the life of Jackie Kennedy? Do you believe she had an aura about herself? Tell us about the myth of Jackie Kennedy, let alone the one about Guinevere and King Arthur.
In the film you can see that Jackie had a difficult emotional life when she was coming of age. She was born just before the Great Depression and her parents went through financials troubles. She came through it with a love of reading, including King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. She loved to ride horses. Jackie became a strong woman who had tremendous drive to not be a housewife. She didn’t know what kind of life she would have but she wanted it to be different. She truly lived a fascinating, heroic, and important life.
BCIFF : The final question : considering the limelight that a number of events have received, a number of lives dissected and closely examined, how relevant do you think are the issues you’ve shown in the movie? Could you comment on the significance of these events today?
As I am writing this, my country is under attack. Washington D.C. today has more soldiers than we have in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was an insurrection on January 6th. The Capital was invaded by terrorists home grown in the USA. Their fascist movement brings a lot of commentary about the Nazi’s and fascists in World War Two which Jackie lived through. Jack Kennedy and Robert served their country in the battle against the Nazi’s and fascists.
When the returning soldiers came home from World War Two, they were given incentives to buy a home, get an education and to start a family.
This was known as the Baby Boomer generation. That force was what propelled Jack Kennedy to the White House. And those boomers formed the counter culture. It was a golden era.
It seems we are going through something like that today. There are many fighting for social justice and climate change and human rights. The young people in the film and around the world could be inspired by the history that happens in this film. History does repeat itself.
And I have no doubt that another golden era will come.
Maybe some will call it Camelot.