JFK assassination: The movie 'Parkland' stars Paul Giamatti, who plays Abraham Zapruder. Zapruder is the man who filmed the JFK assassination in 1963.
When Dallas businessman Abraham Zapruder set up his Bell and Howell home movie camera to film President Kennedy's visit, he had no idea he would capture the most examined piece of film footage in human history.
In the 26.8 seconds of footage, Zapruder captured the passing motorcade and then the deadly shot to the president's head, which happened right in front of his camera.
Abraham Zapruder was never the same after that.
Paul Giamatti plays the unlikely documentarian in the new film "Parkland," which opened in limited release on Friday as November's 50th anniversary of the assassination approaches. The film recounts the chaotic events that occurred in and around Parkland Hospital after the president was brought there with hopes of saving his life.
One of the film's plot threads centers around the Secret Service investigation, which leads to Zapruder's 8mm film.
"His eyes literally see the thing," Giamatti says of Zapruder's film.
We learn that Zapruder and the Secret Service scrambled around Dallas to find someone that knew how to process the film, as well as the fickle nature of the amateur format (it's actually 16mm film that exposes half the frame on each side). After the film is processed, there's some earlier family footage captured before the historical sequence from Dealey Plaza.
In an interview at the recent Toronto Film Festival, Giamatti said he felt a great deal of sympathy toward Zapruder, and he saw the essence of portraying the immigrant garment manufacturer was to channel how haunted he was by the ordeal.
"He's this kind of inadvertent witness of the whole thing that I think he felt guilty about filming this thing, witnessing it the way he did. He felt shame and guilt and things like that. You weren't supposed to see this and he made everybody see it," Giamatti said.