The Unknown Known

The Unknown Known
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The Unknown Known
USA, 2013, 96 Minute Running Time
Topics: Documentary, Political, War
Program: Modern Masters

One day, when aliens descend on Earth, they may ask the question, “Who was this Donald Rumsfeld and why did Errol Morris want to make a documentary about him?” Of course, aliens might have other things on their minds, but the question remains: why did Morris want to tackle the subject of Rumsfeld?

While some might be under the misconception that Morris simply intended to debate the former Secretary of Defense on the Iraq War, Morris’s real motive is to use Rumsfeld — known for writing thousands of memos (so-called “snowflakes”) during his career — as the means for examining the relationship between words, action and meaning (i.e. language itself).

Like a master chef, Morris uses his Rumsfeld interview as the main course, filling out the plate with elegantly prepared side dishes of archival footage and original images; he sauces them with an affecting sound design and musical score (by Danny Elfman). So, don’t be fooled, this is not an MMA fight between Errol Morris and Donald Rumsfeld. If it were, it would certainly have been a smackdown but also a far less subtle and thought-provoking movie.

DIRECTOR: Errol Morris
Producer: Amanda Branson Gill, Robert Fernandez, Errol Morris, Mike Charlton, Ali El Chami, Ann Petrone
Editor: Steven Hathaway
Cinematographer: Robert Chappell
Music: Danny Elfman
Principal Cast: Donald Rumfeld, Errol Morris
Filmography: Tabloid (2010)
Standard Operating Procedure (2008) The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003)
Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (1999)
Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (1997)
The Thin Blue Line (1988)


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