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The John F. Kennedy Jr. Initiative for Documentary Film and Social Progress

Spearheaded by Kennedy’s family, friends, and classmates, the initiative aims to bring film and filmmakers to the University with the goal of shedding light on some of the most urgent, challenging, and complex issues facing society through the prism of documentary. Concurrently, and with the support of the Brown Arts Initiative, the presence of filmmakers on campus will allow Brown students the opportunity to explore the practicalities of filmmaking and to enhance their capacity to make films of their own. 

The John F. Kennedy Jr. Initiative for Documentary Film and Social Progress reflects the values of its namesake, a Brown alumnus who throughout his adult life was committed to the quest for truth and social progress through the creative use of imagery and narrative. In the mid-’90s, Kennedy co-founded George, a magazine covering contemporary politics. The monthly is credited with pioneering many practices that are now standard in print and digital media coverage of international current events.

The initiative will focus on both traditional and innovative modes of storytelling, and in the process, create dynamic correspondence between filmmakers, journalists, and students.


Tuesday, January 28, 6 p.m. - Coup 53 Screening and Panel Discussion Watch video


Wednesday, February 12, 10 a.m. - Emily Kassie '14 ─ Master Class: The Making of Your Documentary
Wednesday, February 12, 1 p.m. - A Conversation with Documentary Filmmaker Emily Kassie '14


Monday, March 2, 7 p.m. - Screening of The Great Hack

Tuesday, March 3, 7 p.m. - Screening of The Edge of Democracy

Friday, March 6, 7 p.m. - Screening of The Kingmaker

Tuesday, March 10, 12 p.m. - A Conversation with Petra Costa

Tuesday, March 10, 12 p.m. - The Entrepreneurial Film Producer


Thursday, April 9, 4 p.m. - LIVE: Trending Globally Podcast with Randall Poster '83

Other practitioners on the line-up for 2020 include:

  • Oscar-winning Errol Morris, director of The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War, who will screen and discuss American Dharma, his controversial portrait of Steve Bannon.
  • Rory Kennedy ’91, director of numerous documentaries, including Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and Last Days in Vietnam, will screen her most recent film, Above and Beyond, about NASA and climate change, and offer a master class.
  • Davis Guggenheim ’86, director of the documentaries An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman, and He Named Me Malala, will offer a screening and master class.
  • Richard Linklater will kick off the second John F. Kennedy Film Forum, themed “Pursuing Truth through Fiction.” Following screenings of his films Slacker, Dazed and Confused, and Boyhood, Linklater, named among TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2015, will discuss modes of storytelling and offer a master class. 
  • Producer Christine Vachon ’83 will screen Boys Don’t Cry, as well as two of the many films she has worked on with director Todd Haynes ’83: Velvet Goldmine and Dark Waters, from 2019.  
  • Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson will screen and discuss his directorial debut, Black Woodstock

JFK Jr. film series at Brown confronts urgent social issues - News from Brown

Watson kicks off documentary initiative with screening of ‘Coup 53’ - Brown Daily Herald

Watson launches documentary initiative - Brown Daily Herald