After completing his latest documentary feature, Errol Morris professed that the film captured "the strangest interview I’ve ever done." And for Morris, the man famous for the invention of his interviewing machine aptly coined The Interrotron, this conversation with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is just one of thousands he’s conducted over the course of his filmmaking career. So to refer to it as "the strangest" is certainly saying something.
After developing a personal fascination with Rumsfeld's "snowflakes"—the enormous mountain of memos he composed during his almost fifty years of public service—Morris asked Rumsfeld to read and explain these memos for his cameras. When he sat down with Rumsfeld to interview him for what would become "The Unknown Known," Morris was interested in digging deeper into the unfamiliar territory that is Rumsfeld’s mind. What he found there was not a substantive accumulation of evil. Instead, Morris’s film presents a man so understated and controlled in his own humanity that his lack of regard for his own actions leaves the audience chilled. With masterful understanding of the documentary artform that few others possess, Morris’s film meticulously pieces together what it can from Rumsfeld’s complicated "web of words" to present an impression of a man that no one can possibly fully understand.
"The Unknown Known" screened Thursday, November 7 at the Landmark in Los Angeles as a part of the IDA Documentary Screening Series. Director Errol Morris sat down with Indiewire's Dana Harris, who fielded a question from the audience regarding the most satisfying thing about making this film.
You can watch more moments from this Q&A at the IDA Screening Series playlist on the IDA’s YouTube channel.
Learn more about the other docs set to play in the IDA Documentary Screening Series.