tv Alexandra Zapruder Discusses Twenty- Six Seconds CSPAN May 22, 2017 1:05am-1:51am EDT
for the literature we have an extraordinary treat today to have alexander with us who has written an extraordinary book, 26 seconds a personal history of the film. it is a book you have to fully read to appreciate. i can characterize it as a memoir of the film but in some respects even deeper than that, the memoir of the extraordinary experience, birding, destiny of the family that has its own extraordinary refugees and they find their way led to dallas texas.
the dressmaker that had the extraordinary occasion to find themselves in a position on that day to capture the 26 seconds of the witness of history. how many of you have seen the film? how many have seen gone with the wind? [laughter] it's right up there with the complex relationship to the media that this document, this artifact of history is simultaneously an artifact of the media and in some respects as one colleague of mine x. described the initiation into reality tv, reality media.
it has an extraordinarily complex phenomenal logical profile in this piece of film shot in one day in one place. alexander had done a wonderful job of reading together the story of her family and the impact this had on their lives and to this discussion that i had seen. i had to confess that i delved deeply into the literature but alexander synthesized it in a way that i think you will find moving and illuminating all at once because it is such a profound place. the career as a writer is quite
extraordinary in the early development of the memorial museum and the motif in the story of the relationship to judaism as well. she did an amazing book called remember the story that deals with those experiences. her first book was writers of the holocaust and it was published by yale press. alexander is a great writer of significant achievement. there was a destiny to come to the store he undoubtedly but i
want to introduce alexander and had a little chat. >> thank you for that introduction. i'm glad it's being recorded because i will listen to it over and over and over. it's interesting you say or ask me. this is a likely thing to do to write this book. i grew up in a family where we rarely talked about the film. it was something that we all knew because we had this odd name.
i was very sad for my father and my own father died so i now understand what that felt like for him. so the film was always off-center. i wouldn't say that it was quite taboo. so i came to this topic in the aftermath of the authors death of questions wanting to pull together the threads of the story. coming to it fresh in a way unlike you and other people i never read anything i had no idea.
to get a handle on what it represented i was not only completely stunned by the scope and significance but also i begin to see the ways in which the kind of public understanding of the film was missing our family story and the impact of our family relationship of the film. and the claim to amy and i wouldn't have done the book had i come out but in the end i believed there was something about our story that was going to fill in some really important things. >> how did you first come to know the significance of it and have a sense of taking shape?
>> i tried to think of this when i was working on the book. my only memory as a child is i remember looking at my grandfather's name in the index and i must have known somehow he was in the book. reading about him in the buck when i think about it now i must have known on some level not to ask my parents about it. this is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. now i have an 11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son and understand that they also have my last name and understand how important it is to impress upon
them the national tragedy for the family. then i didn't think about the world again until my dad died. >> not just the fate of your grandfather's place but the fact that he was a home movie enthusiast and we also know he'd forgotten the camera that day and he wasn't going to go do it so it was impossible to imagine a parallel universe where it does not exist in that event. you mentioned the film in
history but i noticed when i was texting you earlier that if you just put the apr and your text message, you carry that identification with you and what does that mean in terms of your growing up? >> edmonds coming from a liberal family, it meant being jewish, and the children from ie incredibly interesting and engaging parents. we all have these identities that are formed by what we grew up with and then there are those
that you even do not realize you've inherited andthat is the result for me. i didn't realize they might come with a whole set of assumptions and understandings i didn't know about. it was a fun hard work because coming to that with no background in the way i could find my own memories in a way and then lay here in this information. i didn't come to it saying i
so that is what he was doing filming all the time just like everybody else did. if you ever see the film with those frames it looks totally different because it is easy or should see it and think it's by a professional photographer or news man or anybody but when you see them playing outside he was there as a person that loved president kennedy and loved this country and had a personal experience. for him -- >> i have a copy traveling
around the film where people have these objects and this is a real assembling the movies all around so it is an assemblage of those that arrived at the airport and to which you only get the film after so you get the tea act of witness. you take the camera away and watch what is happening so the camera men in the room might appreciate the audacity of that. the trauma that your grandfather experienced in that moment to
your father and others -- >> definitely. it was the whole frame of the book before you even get to the content of it. my father wrote two letters to john f. kennedy won when he was senator and one when he was president. my father just graduated from law school and wrote to the president pleading for a job a beautiful letter, such an idealistic letter by my father was 20 years younger than i am now wanting to work for the administration said sh he was to
the story and it makes it powerful. i wouldn't describe it as trauma for myself tha but where there e no reverberations. my father, the disappointment of sadness. to then be responsible for this object, to be the one who decides who uses it and how under what circumstances and for how much money. what is the society sharing that to live and what is the cost of society is not sharing it widely enough food should make that decision and then against the backdrop of the changing times what are the questions in the 60s versus the 70s and 80s and '90s i think that burden
it's something so familiar and such a familiar pattern and thing they would do together, but then. this is what it was going to become. having the broad outlines of the problem before going to attend the film but not even being able to conceive the world but it would go on to play in american life, that was the great surprise. >> the ultimate literary voice that goes through this book then there is an extraordinary chronicle so how did that challenge, how did you decide to
it's not to get off into the autopsy photos but always to look at how is the film used. the film complicates everything. the existence of the film. depending what you're looking for and what you already believe and there is no consensus on what happened even though there is an extraordinary perishable records that there is an inherent conflict in a sort of
almost is like a predictor for the future. but we now live in a time when simple pieces of information and documents and photographs are not necessarily to prove that one thing or another happened. i'm interested someone that growth memoirs and wondering how they received the book on as a poet and your twin brother is an
how do we as a family grapple with these privately and publicly and that was a good enough reason for me to write this book because i thought i adored my father and what if i stumble on something i don't want to write about so i think everybody had a little bit of that and there is your to this kind of discretion out of respect for the kennedy family so it was upsetting but i will say that my aunt is the daughter of my grandfather was behind this and i wouldn't have been able to do it without her
because every time i went to her house she would hand me another stack of things. if these are your questions and this is your work and this is what you need to do then we want you to do it. was very hard and it took me a long time to embrace the personal nature of it. in this applauded as a good way to end.
i try my best to break together the personal legacy of the film for our family and to deal a little bit with the unanswered questions from my childhood and then the public pulling together these different threads that i followed through the book itself so this is the very last few pages of the book. what is the public legacy of the film, what makes the film, art and cultural historians the writer, journalist, academics -- return to it as a touchstone time and again. i've come to think of it because it is in every way a conundrum. it contains its own contradictions.
it's the most historical film yet it is an amateur home movie. it's the most public of records and it is gruesome and terrible but we cannot stop looking at it. at the deepest most compelling is an existential one. it's the inevitability of it smiling and waving. covered in brains and blood trying to recover his from the
limousine. he's alive and vendetta. she ha is a wife and then a wid. she is grace itsel has graced in sprawled across the back of the car. how could it be that our protections and illusions can be stripped from us so quickly. the capriciousness in the permanent and get. maybe it is the same. it turns to despair in an instant and tragedy comes out of
magazine. the reporter purchased on behalf of life who still writes to the film the day after the assassination a few days later owned the film for 12 years after the assassination. he couldn't keep it and was being hounded by reporters instantly and aggressively so i think that he felt the need to get it out of his own hand. it was extremely important to my grandfather whose biggest fear is that it was going to be a sensationalized.
they came here in 1920 and my grandfather went to night school to learn english. she and my grandmother went to dallas in 1941 by the time the assassination happened was running a dress manufacturing and his whole life was shaped by the dramatic early years. his values and jewish values in particular.
it was in conflict with american norms already to say nothing of today and i think that he was very much afraid that profiting from the film and sending it to life magazine both would be perceived and that would potentially spark the anti-semitic reactions. his decision then to give away $25,000 to the widow of the officer that was shot is the taking of the money reflected
his own financial insecurity and it is important when the taking of it is completed it in order to assuage his own complicated sense of guilt and responsibility. this is to mitigate the kind of damage and the basic element remains. it is through the 70s, 80s and 90s when he was dealing with the film. the values are a guidepost.
you probably don't address this in the book and it might be removed from the story. i can remember our family didn't have one but there were a lot of people along that route did you think about why was it your grandfather happened to get the only film we know of? i think that is incredible. >> there were 21 other photographers. it encapsulates the whole story and it's so clear there is an
the frames are being fought in the artifact being manipulated. they were printed in reverse order which was either the most unbelievable thing somebody dead or something worse than not. so it's very dubious that that happened and there were also frames that were damaged when they were rushing to go to print
on the first issue on the images of the film and the six frames were damaged and sliced out which led to speculation that the film had been altered and then there's a larger alteration i won't go into now because the time i went into at great length in the book possibly not very nicely. i wanted to also commend the book. it's not a reality we can live with every hour of every day but the truth that will never grow old and every generation must grapple with fort itself.
up next week as the free public library, one of the oldest libraries in the age. it is rumored to be the first library in the state of new jersey and the second oldest in the nation. march of 1752 it first became established in order to take items out of sight of the library. ben franklin actually played a huge role in that. both of them were from philadelphia pennsylvania and benjamin franklin collaborated with individuals from england to have 50 volumes and