Blu-ray, DVD Release: The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates

Blu-ray & DVD Release Date: April 26, 2016
Price: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray $39.95
Studio: Criterion


Seeking to invigorate the American documentary format, which he felt was rote and uninspired, Robert Drew brought the style and vibrancy he had fostered as a Life magazine correspondent to filmmaking in the late fifties as can be seen in the works compiled in The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates.

Primary (1960)

Primary (1960)

Drew did this by assembling an amazing team—including such eventual nonfiction luminaries as Richard Leacock (Louisiana Story), D. A. Pennebaker (Dont Look Back), and Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens)—that would transform documentary cinema. In 1960, the group was granted direct access to John F. Kennedy, filming him on the campaign trail and eventually in the Oval Office. This resulted in three films of remarkable, behind-closed-doors intimacy—Primary (1960), Adventures on the New Frontier (1961)and Crisis (1963)—and, following the president’s assassination, the poetic short Faces of November (1964).

Collected here are all four of these titles, early exemplars of the movement known as Direct Cinema and featuring the greatest close-up footage we have of American icon JFK.

Criterion’s Blu-ray and DVD editions of the collection include the following:

  • New 2K digital restorations of all four films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray
    • Alternate, twenty-six-minute cut of Primary,edited by filmmaker Richard Leacock
    • Audio commentary on the Leacock edit of Primary, featuring Leacock and filmmakers Robert Drew and D. A. Pennebaker, recorded in conversation with film critic Gideon Bachmann in 1961
    • Robert Drew in His Own Words, a new documentary featuring archival interview footage
    • New conversation between Pennebaker and Jill Drew, Robert Drew’s daughter-in-law and the general manager of Drew Associates
    • Outtakes from Crisis, along with a discussion by historian Andrew Cohen, author of Two Days in June
    • New conversation about Crisis featuring former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder and Sharon Malone, Holder’s wife and the sister of Vivian Malone, one of the students featured in Crisis
    • New interview with Richard Reeves, author of President Kennedy: Profile of Power
    • Footage from a 1998 event at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, featuring Drew, Pennebaker, Leacock, and filmmaker Albert Maysles
    • An essay by documentary film curator and writer Thomas Powers
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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.