JFK Presidential Library Launches Interactive Documentary Marking 50th Anniversary of Cuban Missile Crisis

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The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has announced the launch of an interactive multimedia documentary marking the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Narrated by Matthew Modine, www.cloudsovercuba.com, went live on Tuesday, October 16 – exactly 50 years after Soviet missiles were discovered in Cuba – allowing audiences around the world to experience an immersive documentary that depicts the full story of the crisis in riveting detail, while also offering a thought-provoking, fictional “what if” scenario to this tense standoff.

Partnering with The Martin Agency and Tool of North America, the documentary follows the developments that led to the crisis beginning with the 1959 Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro and continues on until the missiles are removed in October 1962. Along the way, the user is invited to explore 15 related events in greater depth via expert interviews including Sheldon M. Stern, former historian at the JFK Presidential Library and author of several books and articles on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Sergei Khrushchev, son of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Topics such as the fear of communism, the Bay of Pigs invasion and the secret ExComm recordings are all explored in fascinating detail from multiple perspectives.

Leveraging HTML5, Javascript and web socket technology, Clouds Over Cuba exhibits an unprecedented integration of desktop and mobile platforms for the documentary film format. As the documentary unfolds, dozens of archival photos, videos, documents and audio recordings are automatically added to a digital dossier that is synced to key moments during the film. Clouds Over Cuba takes a unique approach towards optimizing the content experience based on the platform the viewer is on. Mobile users on Chrome and Safari browsers can sync their mobile or iPad devices with the film. This allows viewers to access supporting content from the documentary on their mobile device as it unfolds during the film and consume it when and where they want to. The full documentary film experience is viewable on desktop browsers.

Users who want to follow the 13 most important days of the crisis “live” exactly 50 years later can import all the secret ExComm meetings with JFK and his advisors, letters between JFK and Khrushchev and other material into their iCal and Google calendars with one click, enabling them to “attend” the meetings and receive the communications live over the 13 days.

“The goal of this project is to engage and educate a multigenerational audience about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and motivate them to learn more about presidential decision-making during the most dangerous moment in modern history,” said Tom McNaught, Executive Director of the JFK Library Foundation. “By combining elements of a traditional documentary with an interactive experience, this site promises to elevate the importance of history and its relevance to our lives today.”

Before the film concludes, users can optionally access a heartbreaking short film that takes place in an alternate 2012 in which the Cuban Missile Crisis did escalate into nuclear war 50 years earlier. Beautifully shot by an Oscar-winning cinematographer, this intertwining account tells the story of four fictional characters who each remember the horrors of nuclear war in their own way. As a companion to the documentary, the experience acts as a commentary while presenting a subtle reminder of the bleak, human costs of war.

The documentary resolves with the legacies of Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy and the humanizing things that can be taken away from the crisis.

Throughout the 13 days of the documentary, @JFK1962 will be live-tweeting important moments in real time, exactly 50 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The film offers an original 26-minute documentary with a foundation of archival footage, a 10-minute short film showcasing the “what if” scenario and more than 40 minutes of interviews with expert historians.

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