For the first time in its history, the Venice Film Festival has chosen a documentary, Errol Morris’s The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld, as a contender for competition and a top ten must-see of the Festival.
The Unknown Known has been a hot topic ever since some promotional material of the controversial feature documentary was shown at this years Cannes Film Festival. Errol Morris has strong documentary credentials. He won an Oscar for his 2004 The Fog Of War: The Eleven Lessons Learned From the Life of Robert S. McNamara. Other efforts include A Brief History of Time and The Thin Blue Line, the latter of which boasts a 100% critic approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Morris has been able to sit down for a number of lengthy interviews with the second-longest tenured Secretary of Defense (McNamara being the first), and in the documentary he delves into the sensitive issues that define Rumsfeld’s reign, from Watergate to 9/11 (he served as both the 13th and the 21st Secretary of Defense, becoming both the youngest and oldest man to fill the post in the process).
The inspiration for Errol Morris’ project came from the following comment Rumsfeld made on the state of the ‘War on Terror’, and ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’, as quoted in Collider:
There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.
Errol Morris response:
I kept wondering if Rumsfeld’s real problem was with the unknown unknowns; or was it instead some variant of self-deception, thinking that you know something that you don’t know. A problem of hubris, not epistemology.
The Weinstein Company, History Films, Radius-TWC and Participant Media will release the film in the U.S. later this year.
Errol Morris, Robert Fernandez and Molly Thompson are producing. Josh Braun is executive producing.