Wednesday, November 09, 2016


Written and directed by Robert Drew, Primary is a documentary film that follows the 1960 Wisconsin primary election between John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey for the Democratic nomination for the President of the United States of America. Considered one of the key films of Direct Cinema, the film follows Kennedy as he is campaigning to be President in what was considered to be a landmark race. The result is a fascinating film from Robert Drew.

It’s April of 1960 where Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota when to a small town in Wisconsin to try and talk to voters in the streets to win their votes for a primary just days away. The film follows the two men as they appeal to all kind of voters as Humphrey goes to farmers and local merchants while Kennedy appeal to the young voters, Catholics, and those of different ethnic backgrounds. Robert Drew and a team of cameramen including cinematographers Albert Maysles, Richard Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker, and Terence Macartney-Filgate capture a lot of what is happening as it is done with hand-held cameras to follow everything that is being shot as it would become this form of filmmaking known as cinema verite.

With some narration by Joseph Julian, the film showcases what Kennedy and Humphrey would do as well as see them behind the scenes trying to see how to win the primary. Drew would often showcase a sense of realism into what is happening in the campaign where it is clear the candidates want to win but do it more honestly and actually care about the voters they’re going after. With Pennebaker also editing the film as well as do some of the sound recording with Drew, the film maintains that air of realism where it showcases a lot of what is happening from the perspective of the audience to the candidates talking to them on the stage or in person. Drew’s direction also has this intimacy that captures a lot of what is happening as there is a sequence where the camera is following Kennedy from behind as he is walking to the podium for a speech as it follows the back of his head. Even as he captures some of the events for the candidates that include music that is being played on film.

Primary is a marvelous film from Robert Drew that chronicles the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic campaign. It’s a film that showcases what goes at a political primary campaign at its most bare and raw as well as show what two men were do to create a race with some respect as well as go to the people in wanting to help them. In the end, Primary is a remarkable film from Robert Drew.

Related: Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment

© thevoid99 2016

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