Unknown Known

The Unknown Known

Director: Errol Morris, Donald Rumsfeld

Cast: Errol Morris, Donald Rumsfeld

     
 

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In The Unknown Known, award-winning documentarian Errol Morris turns his camera on the career of Donald Rumsfeld, who served in numerous executive positions throughout his career in Washington, D.C., but most famously as Secretary of Defense in the first decade of the 21st century. During his tenure at that job, he helped

Overview

In The Unknown Known, award-winning documentarian Errol Morris turns his camera on the career of Donald Rumsfeld, who served in numerous executive positions throughout his career in Washington, D.C., but most famously as Secretary of Defense in the first decade of the 21st century. During his tenure at that job, he helped orchestrate the Iraq War, and became a controversial figure for many of the things that transpired under his watch. Morris uses his typical stylized approach -- including first-hand interviews with Rumsfeld himself -- and a wealth of archival footage to delineate how his subject's public statements and private actions did not always reconcile. The Unknown Known screened at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
While it's easy to think of Errol Morris' The Unknown Known, the documentarian's examination of Donald Rumsfeld, as a companion piece to The Fog of War, his Oscar-winning look at Robert McNamara, there is something that sets this more recent movie apart, not only from that film, but from practically all of his other work: The Unknown Known is his angriest movie. The film follows the pattern of Morris' earlier pictures. He creates a steady flow of images that give some poetic zing to the historical events described, but the film is dominated by an intimate interview with the subject, conducted in a way that forces the person in question to look directly into the camera. The audience sees, just as Morris does, how Rumsfeld quickly reverts to a sly chuckle or a forced smile whenever he wants to deflect a difficult question. Morris lays out Rumsfeld's extensive career in Washington, how his ties with other Iraq War architects like Dick Cheney go back decades, and how Rumsfeld's managerial style resulted in a vast number of memos. You would think, with such a large amount of written material at everyone's fingertips, that the truth about Rumsfeld would be easy to ascertain. However, Rumsfeld continually posits so many scenarios, what-ifs, and qualifiers that he effectively gives himself plausible deniability at every turn. This makes him, in many ways, the most infuriating subject of Morris' career. In The Fog of War, Robert McNamara, who was the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War, admitted that mistakes were made -- not just by the government and the military, but by himself as well. Rumsfeld never comes close to making any such revelation, and we can hear the frustration in Morris' voice as his questions grow more pointed; he's voicing our own reaction to Rumsfeld's smug disregard for self-analysis. At one point, Morris, irritated by the lack of clear-cut answers, asks his subject why he agreed to be interviewed at all. That's a valid inquiry, but as with all of the questions about the war, Rumsfeld proves he's either unwilling or simply unable to discuss what he believes. The title of the film is a riff on Rumsfeld's infamous quote about the government's inability to prove that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction. He stated: "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- there are things we do not know we don't know." "Unknown known" is a ridiculous turn of phrase, but one that accurately symbolizes Rumsfeld's practiced obtuseness. No matter how hard Morris tries, he never gets Rumsfeld to see the failings that are right in front of him. That makes for a fascinating, yet emotionally frustrating movie.

Product Details

Release Date:
07/01/2014
UPC:
0013132612904
Original Release:
2013
Rating:
PG13
Source:
Radius
Time:
1:43:00
Sales rank:
76,297

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Donald Rumsfeld Participant

Technical Credits
Errol Morris Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Zach Arnold Associate Producer
Ted Bafaloukos Production Designer
Josh Braun Executive Producer
Robert Chappell Cinematographer
Mike Charlton Cinematographer
Alan Yi-Jen Chen Animator
Brian Do Animator
Joel Dougherty Sound/Sound Designer
Danny Elfman Score Composer
Robert Fernandez Producer
Amanda Branson Gill Producer
Jennifer Sofio Hall Executive Producer
Steven Hathaway Editor
Eugenia Magann Haynes Art Director
Julian P. Hobbs Executive Producer
Dirk Hoogstra Executive Producer
Jason Janego Executive Producer
Tony Kandalaft Animator
Joshua Kearney Associate Producer
Jeremy Landman Production Designer
James Maxwell Larkin Associate Producer
Ann Petrone Co-producer
Tom Quinn Executive Producer
Hameed Shaukat Producer
Julia Sheehan Executive Producer
Jeff Skoll Executive Producer
Sherryn Smith Makeup
Celia Taylor Executive Producer
Molly Thompson Executive Producer
Angus Wall Executive Producer
Angus Wall Executive Producer
Diane Weyermann Executive Producer

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