Over the weekend, I went and saw the recently released movie, Bobby, which dramatizes the moments surrounding the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
Featuring a star-studded ensemble cast, the movie is not so much about Bobby Kennedy himself, but more about the ways that his populist message played out among the people. It is easy to get caught up in the Who's Who game with this film, not unlike the movie Crash, where you wonder which Hollywood star is going to pop up next in the narrative. Beyond that, however, are lessons and ideals that still flicker in today's situation with ongoing war and an intense hunger for leadership.
The movie opens up with a contextual blurb that reminds the viewer that earlier in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also assassinated. It frames the era in such a way that forces the viewer to recognize the importance of the void that was left after the death of Dr. King and Kennedy. Scenes and dialog were able to capture disillusionment felt among King's followers, especially within the African American community, and how they held onto a flicker of hope in a movement of equality through the human rights coalition that Kennedy was building, despite the loss of their leader.
Mexican-American life in the 1960's was also worked into the complex, woven storyline. Issues such as identity - "Latino? LATINO?!? You're a Mexican!" - immigration status, the delicate dance with the African American community and facing outright racism were among the themes expounded by the actors.
Looming over the racial themes was Vietnam. The draft and how it was viewed by a young generation was touched upon, as well as a clever way of one young man's escape from the front lines of that unpopular war. Bobby Kennedy's speeches, presented as voice-overs, provided the contrast that the country was in the middle of a political hurricane that would decide the future course of the Vietnam War.
While the pace of this film is high-speed and easily lost at times, I recommend it as a thought-provoking look at American politics and social structure. There are themes there that need to be scratched and prodded from below the surface. It's one of those films where it's up to the viewer how much he/she gets out of its message.
For me, there were several times when goosebumps rose on my skin and, I have to admit, tears welled up in my eyes. Tears of sadness, yes, but also tears of appreciation and inspiration that comes from the few and far between leaders that speak a message that resonates with a person committed to peace and justice.