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Raising the curtain finally on Ethel Kennedy Hemingway sees no glamor in addiction

 LOS ANGELES, June 21, (Agencies): Rory Kennedy’s moving documentary “Ethel” has traveled a long road.

Last August, it opened the International Documentary Association’s DocuWeeks showcase. Then it had a short theatrical run to qualify for the Academy Awards before premiering on HBO. Then it made the Oscar shortlist of 15, necessitating another round of screenings and Q&As for Kennedy.
Now it’s one of the HBO Documentary Films submissions in the Outstanding Nonfiction Special Program category.
But then “Ethel” has already been on a long road. Made by the youngest of the 11 children born to Ethel and Robert F. Kennedy, it came about only after HBO Docs chief Sheila Nevins kept bugging Kennedy to make a film about her mother, who hadn’t given an extended interview in more than 20 years.
“I immediately said no, but Sheila was insistent, and I realized that my mother does have a really interesting story,” Kennedy told TheWrap. “My siblings and I had encouraged her to write a book about her life, but she clearly was not going to do that. So I figured I might as well ask her about a movie.”
Kennedy, who won an Emmy for “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib” and was nominated for “Bobby Fischer Against the World” and “American Hollow,” thought her mother would decline. “But she surprised me by saying yes. She later told me, ‘I did it because you asked me to do it.’”
The film has a gentle touch and a keen eye for the best way to illuminate the humor, heartbreak and indomitable spirit of a woman who deserves to be known for far more than just being the widow of the onetime US Attorney General, senator and assassinated 1968 presidential candidate.
“So many people around her had made such significant contributions, and she didn’t even realize the contributions she had made,” Kennedy said. Ethel Kennedy emerges in the film as a vibrant, playful presence, and as a woman who not only raised 11 children largely by herself and was dubbed “Washington’s No. 1 hostess” by one newspaper, but who served as an sometimes invisible but often invaluable sounding board to her husband during his lifetime, and became an active crusader for human rights and social justice after his death.
WASHINGTON: US actress turned wellness guru Mariel Hemingway, whose illustrious family has been deeply scarred by suicide, appealed to Hollywood on Thursday not to glamorize addiction. “I think there is a responsablity in Hollywood to not glamorize addictions and others things that are causes of problems,” the 51-year-old star of Woody Allen’s 1979 rom-com “Manhattan” told reporters in Washington.
She was in the US capital for the screening of “Running from Crazy,” director Barbara Kopple’s documentary about the Hemingway family’s struggle with substance abuse, mental illness and suicide, at the AFI Docs festival.
Seven members of the Hemingway family have taken their own lives, most famously novelist Ernest Hemingway and model Margaux Hemingway, who was Mariel Hemingway’s sister.
“Yes, I think there was a (family) curse,” said Hemingway, a mother of two who lives outside San Francisco, teaches yoga and writes books about holistic living.
“But I honestly believe that by making this film, and because of how I live my life, I don’t feel I have a curse anymore,” she said.
She disagreed with those who suggest that mental illness is genetic, saying: “You have to look at all the factors.”
“Everybody that commmited suicide in my family, at least, were addicts. They were trying to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. All these things are very complicated,” she told AFP.
“That’s why I chose to live a livestyle that I know supports my balance and well-being.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control data, the number of suicides among Americans aged 35 to 64 — a segment that includes many baby boomers — has risen 28 percent in the last decade.
In 2010 the number of suicides (38,364) overtook the number of traffic fatalities (33,687).
Kelly Posner, founder of the Center for Suicide Risk Assessment, said 90 percent of those who die by suicide had an underlying mental illness, most often depression.
“Unfortunately, most of the people who need treatment do not get it,” she said.

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