With The Fog of War, his Oscar-winning documentary on Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Errol Morris displayed his intense interest in the ongoing impact of the Vietnam War. A new teaser for his latest film, The Unknown Known, suggests that the movie will take a similar approach to a parallel theme: It picks the brains of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, one of the chief architects of the war in Iraq.
Rumsfeld was notorious for his “snowflakes”—the thousands of memos he sent during his time in Congress and the Pentagon, and as secretary of defense—which often employed a sort of bureaucratic poetry. (A particularly abstract briefing provided the title for Morris’ film.) In this brief clip, Morris explores the rationale behind these memos, many of which provided the foundation for the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq.
Rumsfeld, something of an enigma despite spending a large portion of his life in the national spotlight, is evasive as ever. But Morris’ attention to detail, his commitment to finding answers, and his willingness to consider many sides of a story seem bound to shed fresh light on his difficult subject.
The use of Morris’ trademark Interrotron—a camera contraption that allows the subject to look right into the camera while conversing with the director, evoking the sense of authentic conversation with the audience—may help as well. The Unknown Known is premiering on the festival circuit right now, with screenings in Venice, Telluride, and Toronto, and should come to theaters later this year or early next.
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