Film Forum is pleased to present the US theatrical premiere of Virtual JFK: Vietname if Kennedy Had Lived, beginning Wednesday, September 17. Scottish historian Niall Ferguson calls it virtual history: the great what if’s, the plausibility of counterfactuals. First-time filmmaker Koji Masutani and Brown University professor James G. Blight ask: “Can a president make a decisive difference in matters of war and peace… or, are the forces that drive a nation into war a lot more impersonal, out of the control of any single human being, even a president?” In 1963 the US had 16,000 military advisers in Vietnam. By 1968, President Lyndon Johnson had sent 500,000 troops. Virtual JFK rethinks Kennedy’s legendary 1,000-day presidency, selecting from more than 250 hours of archival material some of the brightest, funniest moments from his press conferences, as well as some of the scariest ones, when the Cold War threatens to turn hot.
The film considers Kennedy’s modus operandi in foreign affairs, looking closely at how he deals with six crises, including a belligerent Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the building of the Berlin Wall. Kennedy advisors Robert McNamara, Adlai Stevenson and General Maxwell Taylor appear in the film, as does a particularly telling exchange between JFK and General Curtis LeMay (the inspiration for General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove). The 800-pound gorilla in the room is, of course, George W. Bush, his war in Iraq and the bellicose noises his administration have been making toward Iran. What would JFK have done in Vietnam? And what would he do today? --© Film Forum