Kevin Rafferty’s most acclaimed documentary, “Atomic Cafe,” was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. It was about America’s atomic testing legacy.
Harvard educated, a relative of the Bush clan, he made a very entertaining sports doc about a legendary moment in Ivy League lore — “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29 “ — a film which featured an interview with Tommy Lee Jones, who played with the Eli and was Al Gore’s roommate at Yale.
He was cinematographer for Michael Moore’s splashy debut, “Roger & Me.” Just having him around turned out to be Moore’s film school.
Rafferty made films about American Nazis (“Blood in the Face”) decades before they became an acknowledged problem in modern American culture, about smoking and tobacco and the economic (“The Last Cigarette”) and about New Hampshire’s stranglehold on the American presidential selection process (“Who Wants to be President?”).
He was an archetypal documentary maker of his era. Not prolific, but painstaking, serious, the sort sent up in movies like “While We’re Young” and “Real Life” — privileged, indulging in a quixotic pursuit that was more of a cause than a career.