Filmmaker Rory Kennedy turns the camera on her own family history in HBO film ‘Ethel’; Rory talks to genConnect about making this very personal film
About Rory Kennedy
The co-founder and co-president of Moxie Firecracker Films, Inc., Rory Kennedy is one of the nation’s most prolific independent documentary filmmakers. Her impressive body of work, which tackles some of our most pressing social concerns including poverty, domestic abuse, drug addiction, human rights, AIDS and mental illness, has garnered numerous awards and been featured on HBO, A&E, MTV, Lifetime, The Oxygen Network, Court TV, TLC and PBS.
Through her films, Kennedy aims to illuminate larger social issues by telling the stories of everyday people. Kennedy’s film American Hollow, an award-winning documentary about an Appalachian family caught between century-old tradition and the encroaching modern world, premiered to critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival, was broadcast as part of HBO's America Undercover series and received a Non-Fiction Primetime Emmy Award nomination.
Most recently, Kennedy directed and produced Pandemic: Facing AIDS, which follows the lives of five people living with AIDS and which ultimately connects audiences with the heartache and triumph of living under the extreme conditions of the disease. Her other films include Epidemic Africa, Fire in Our House, Juvies, The Changing Face of Beauty, Travelers, Different Moms, Healthy Start, The Nazi Officer's Wife, A Boy's Life, Sixteen and Girlhood.
An eloquent and experienced public speaker who embraces film as a vehicle to inspire others to action, Kennedy was the speaker for the Women of Substance Education Outreach Campaign, the Fire in Our House Outreach Campaign and a surrogate speaker for Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential Campaign.
At the lecture podium, Kennedy offers passionate views on a broad range of topics. Whether discussing human rights, the creative process, women and entrepreneurship, or numerous social issues, she provides first-hand insight into the people and stories that are often overlooked in our society, but which desperately need to be addressed.
In 1998, Kennedy’s Moxie Films merged with Liz Garbus’s Firecracker Films to form Moxie Firecracker Films, Inc. Their first joint venture was Different Moms, a documentary about mentally retarded parents raising their children, which aired on Lifetime Television. Kennedy was the executive director of MayDay Media, a non-profit production and distribution division of Video/Action Fund. In that position, she developed, produced and distributed social issue video projects, including Fire in Our House, which won the CINE Golden Eagle, top prize at the U.S. International Film and Video Festival and the Silver Apple for the National Education Media Network.
In addition to her impressive film career, Kennedy is a committed social activist and human rights advocate. She has been a member of the board of directors for a number of non-profit organizations including the Legal Action Center and the Project Return Foundation. She served as chairperson of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation Associate Trustees Program and continues as a member of the board. She was a member of the 1999 Presidential Mission on AIDS in Africa. Kennedy initiated and helped develop the Teacher Transfer Program between the U.S. and Namibia after her work at the Dobra Resettlement Camp. She has also been a member of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Human Rights delegations in South Africa, South Korea, Japan, El Salvador and Poland.
Kennedy is a graduate of Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts in Women's Studies.