The Film Director the CIA Tried to Silence

Gabrielle Tierney interviews Chris Plumley, the director of The Day The Dream Died. Described by Oliver Stone as the “inspiration” for his feature film JFK, The Day The Dream Died investigates the assassination of one of the United States’ most admired presidents, John F. Kennedy.

The programme reconstructs the official version of events and questions the validity of government claims that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone gunman.  Presenting tangible links between the CIA, the Mafia, and the assassinations of both John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert Kennedy, the documentary casts serious doubt on the official version of events.

What was the motivation for making the documentary?

I went to the U.S to write a book about the assassination.  When I got there, I started tracking down witnesses and I found a piece of film which just blew my mind; it changed everything.  I always knew there was doubt; I just didn’t know how significant it was until I got there.  I then sent this piece of film to Channel 4, with the intention of making a programme about it.  Much to my surprise, they wrote back saying they were going to commission me to make it and asked how much it was going to cost.  I told them about £200,000, being a bit silly, and they wrote back and said: “Ok, go for it!”

What was the US government’s response to the film and the footage of the gunman on the “grassy knoll”?

The CIA sought an injunction to prevent its broadcast- so it was never advertised in the papers as being “on.”  All they could do, I forget the wording now, was say “programme to be decided on.”  They had to release that to all the papers, so no one knew it was going to happen, because there was this injunction looming.  And right at the last minute, Channel 4 (much to their credit), called me and said “right, we’re gonna take a chance and go with it.”  Literally, on the morning of broadcast they decided to do that.

What was the reaction of the US government thereafter?

Well, it wasn’t broadcast in the US and probably never will be.

There have been two government inquiries into the shooting. Why have the conclusions of these enquiries not sedated public opinion?

Because they’re so flawed; the evidence doesn’t coincide with the facts.

Why do you believe there was a cover-up?

Because it’s a much bigger issue- it’s all about arms.  They didn’t want a peacemaker in the White House; they wanted a warmonger in the White House.  The president is the mouth piece of corporate America: largely the arms industry.  I think his undoing was when he sacked Richard Helms, the head of the CIA, over the Bay of Pigs invasion.  This is something which had never been done before.  The CIA virtually runs the world, so he made some serious enemies.  It was all crystallized by him when he announced that he was going to withdraw the troops from Vietnam; that was the final thing that killed him.

War has always played an integral role in the US economy.  Given the present-day situation in Iraq, do you think that US presidents are still under pressure to initiate and maintain wars?

Yes, very much so, and by people who are members of companies such the Carlyle Group and Haliburton.  The Carlyle Group and Haliburton are run by a group of very wealthy business men and have members and consultants such as George Bush Sr., Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney.  These companies own all the big arms industries, and it’s as blatant as that.  It’s in their financial interest to have wars.

Not many people know your documentary was the foundation for Oliver Stones - JFK. How did Oliver Stone get to know about your film?

An Italian channel was really excited by the film and invited me over for three months to work on their version.  Oliver Stone saw this film on its first broadcast and from there it inspired the making of JFK.  His production company then bought the research I had done for the film and recruited me as an advisor.

You also produced a documentary on the assassination of Robert Kennedy.  Is your infatuation with the Kennedy brothers or with conspiracy theories?

Well, it just seemed like a natural extension from the film on JFK; Robert seemed to be the most important asset to JFK’s change of heart after the Bay of Pigs incident.  He seemed an immense force in the assault on organised crime.  Previous governments had never tackled organised crime on this level because they were beneficiaries- it was terribly corrupt.  I think that’s when Kennedy realised that he could actually be a force for good, and had the ability to make change happen, and Robert was a driving force for all that.  He was much more radical, a much more passionate man, and a religious man as well.  He had a prevailing sense of morality, although misguided at times.

To label someone as a conspiracist is to insinuate paranoia and extremism. What would you say to those who call you a conspiracist?

Well, I suppose I am a conspiracist… you have to be a conspiracist.  There are a lot of individuals who profit from these situations: a tiny crust of very wealthy and powerful people who use people as pawns, to protect themselves and their interests.

Do you think conspiracy theorists and other voices of dissent are necessary to challenge the actions of government?

Oh yes, of course they are. Without them, you wouldn’t have had Watergate, you wouldn’t have had JFK, you wouldn’t have had anything. And that, unfortunately, is what is shamelessly happening in America right now. Why don’t the journalists of the US question the events of 9/11 as they are ethically obligated to do? That’s the main problem in America - the inertia of the press.

Why is it 40 years later the shooting of JFK still captivates?

Probably because he was such a charismatic man. He had a certain presence about him.

So the $1,000,000 question - who really killed JFK?

The man who I think pulled the trigger is a man called David Ferry, who was working for the CIA.  He was a freelancer though; he worked for the Mafia as well.  He was the one on the grassy knoll who pulled the trigger of the lethal shot.  He committed suicide in a hotel, on the eve of him giving evidence.  I think we can presume then that he was himself assassinated.  But he was one of many who died under suspicious circumstances.  These weren’t the only odd incidents; a lot of people who testified about the gunman on the grassy knoll were simply ignored by the Warren Report.

That sounds quite similar to the Jean Charles de Menezes enquiry where many of the testimonies of the people at Stockwell tube station that morning were either buried or ignored.  Do you think these government cover-ups are as prevalent as they seem?

Yes, I think they probably still are, and that incident demonstrates it clearly.  Not only did they cover up, but in fact, they lied.

What are you working on now and are there any dark conspiracies that you would like to investigate in the future?

I’ve currently got two projects on the go. The first is a book about the role of the US government and the CIA in conducting a war financed by cocaine against the democratically elected government of Nicaragua. This is not conspiracy theory; this is an acknowledged fact. The other project is a film about one of the 20th Century’s greatest engineers and innovators, Louis Renault, the man who created the Renault car and who has been relegated to obscurity for his supposed collaboration with the Nazis.  I started that film about five years ago, but funding was withdrawn when we discovered  Charles DeGaulle was implicated in his death.  I’m now looking for independent finance to finish it.

A story I’d definitely like to investigate is 9/11; what happened there was shameful.  The events of 9/11 were just terrible, and I think they were allowed to happen. And it’s just not being said; no one’s talking about it.  I would like to investigate that.

Michael Moore and his film Fahrenheit 9/11 brought to light his suspicions about the day. Do you think that this is a new era in the documentary film-making world?

Yes, definitely.  With the advent of new technology and packages that allow anyone to edit on their own computer, it has become very accessible.  I think the whole way Rice N Peas are doing their thing is terribly exciting- the way they have a little circuit of new film-makers.  You can make films that way, and they’ve done that on their own, and I think that’s a brilliant way of doing things.  I can see a very exciting future for documentary film-making in that style.
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