Kevin Rafferty, ‘Atomic Cafe’ Co-Director, Dies at 72


Kevin Rafferty, who with two co-directors turned archival materials created to ease People into the nuclear age into “The Atomic Cafe,” a darkly comedian 1982 documentary that each highlighted the absurdity of an earlier era’s propaganda and steered the unsettling risk that we’re nonetheless being so manipulated, died on Thursday at his house in Manhattan. He was 72.

His brother Pierce, who with Jayne Loader directed that movie with him, mentioned the trigger was most cancers.

Mr. Rafferty didn’t make quite a lot of movies — he has simply six directing credit within the Web Film Database — however the ones he did make drew crucial acclaim and lined a variety of topics. “Blood in the Face” (1991), directed with Anne Bohlen and James Ridgeway, examined the Ku Klux Klan and different far-right teams. “The Final Cigarette” (1999), directed with Frank Keraudren, was concerning the peddling of cigarettes to American customers and the world. “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29” (2008) recounted a storied 1968 soccer recreation.

Different documentarians mentioned Mr. Rafferty’s affect went nicely past his directing credit.

“He leaves behind a deep and lasting legacy, each in his personal work and that of the filmmakers he impressed and with whom he collaborated,” Robert Stone, who had assist from Mr. Rafferty on his Oscar-nominated 1988 documentary, “Radio Bikini,” mentioned by e mail.

Michael Moore, the Oscar-winning director of “Bowling for Columbine” (2002) and different movies, credited Mr. Rafferty with beginning his documentary profession. Mr. Moore was simply an admiring fan when he met Mr. Rafferty briefly after a displaying of “The Atomic Cafe” in Ann Arbor, Mich.

However three years later, Mr. Moore mentioned in a phone interview, Mr. Rafferty, then making “Blood within the Face,” requested him for assist in attending to Bob Miles, a number one Klan determine whose farm was close to Flint, Mich., the place Mr. Moore was working a weekly journal. Mr. Moore ended up as an interviewer in that documentary, which centered on a gathering of extreme-right teams in 1986.

A 12 months or so later, Mr. Moore determined to strive making his personal documentary, about Common Motors, and requested Mr. Rafferty for some pointers. Mr. Rafferty confirmed up in Michigan with tools, help personnel and 60 rolls of movie; he’s credited as a cinematographer on “Roger & Me” (1989), Mr. Moore’s career-making debut. (“Blood within the Face,” although filmed earlier than “Roger & Me” and Mr. Moore’s first time on digicam, was not launched till after.)

“He was my movie college,” Mr. Moore mentioned. “I’d not have made these different movies had he not been so beneficiant.”

The method employed by Mr. Rafferty and his co-directors on “The Atomic Cafe” — which had no narration, simply archival clips — was not misplaced on Mr. Moore or different documentarians.

“The best way he did his movies was, in case you are adequate at making the movie, that is your voice,” Mr. Moore mentioned. “You don’t must underscore it. That is what I discovered from him: that that’s stronger than me underscoring with my heavy narration, ‘However the bastards at company headquarters refused to budge.’”

“The Atomic Cafe” is constructed of snippets of presidency movies and different sources from early within the Chilly Battle that peddled “duck and canopy” as a protection in opposition to a nuclear blast, extolled the advantages of private fallout shelters and extra. It resonated with critics.

The movie, David Sterritt wrote in a 1982 evaluation in The Christian Science Monitor, “ought to be seen by everybody who cares about atomic energy, the specter of nuclear battle, the roots of American tradition, or the pervasive results of the pictures and concepts that blitz our minds daily by way of the mass media.”

“In its personal modest method,” he added, “it’s an explosive film.”

Kevin Gelshenen Rafferty II, who was named for an uncle killed in World Battle II, was born on Could 25, 1947, in Boston. His father, Walter, was an funding banker, and his mom, Martha Pierce Rafferty, was a homemaker who served on college and different civic boards and was energetic in backyard golf equipment.

He graduated from Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts in 1965 and from Harvard College in 1970, incomes a bachelor’s diploma in artwork and structure. He then studied movie on the California Institute of the Arts, the place he was a instructing assistant for 2 years.

He and his brother started engaged on “The Atomic Cafe” within the 1970s, with Ms. Loader quickly becoming a member of the mission. The movie had a protracted gestation that concerned many hours in varied archives and lots of extra within the modifying room.

“As a result of we caught to the laborious and quick rule of no ‘voice of God’ narration, a pure extension of the cinéma vérité custom Kevin was steeped in, the mission took 5 years to finish,” Pierce Rafferty mentioned by e mail. “Nonetheless, that call to let the part items inform the story, irrespective of the years added to the filmmaking course of, defines the movie right now.”

In a way, Mr. Rafferty’s ultimate movie, “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29,” had a fair longer gestation: It revisited a soccer recreation Mr. Rafferty had attended 40 years earlier when he was at Harvard. Harvard staged a miraculous comeback to finish the sport in a tie, main The Harvard Crimson to make use of the headline Mr. Rafferty borrowed for his movie’s title.

Manohla Dargis, reviewing the film in The New York Occasions, referred to as it “preposterously entertaining.” Mr. Rafferty, who drove hundreds of miles to interview gamers who had been within the recreation, told The Times that it was “the most effective time I’ve ever had making a film.”

“It was much more enjoyable than hanging out with the Ku Klux Klan, as an example,” he added.

Mr. Rafferty’s first marriage led to divorce. Along with his brother Pierce, he’s survived by his spouse, Paula Scott Longendyke, whom he married in 1986; a daughter, Madeleine Rafferty; and 4 different siblings, Sharon Patterson and Corinne, Gail and Brian Rafferty.

In 2016 the Library of Congress named “The Atomic Cafe” to the National Film Registry, its record of flicks deemed “culturally, traditionally or aesthetically important,” and IndieCollect, which works to protect unbiased movies, started a restoration. The restored movie premiered in 2018 on the South by Southwest pageant in Austin, Texas, and later performed at Film Forum in Manhattan and elsewhere.

After we launched into its restoration in 2017, Chilly Battle memes had been re-emerging in our public discourse and White Home staffers had been asserting the validity of ‘different details,’” Sandra Schulberg, president of IndieCollect, mentioned by e mail. “It simply appeared like the right film for our time.”


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