I could argue that all you need to know about former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is that he campaigned relentlessly (and, “successfully”) for an attack on Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq over the alleged—and ultimately illusory—stockpiling of chemical and biological weapons, but he is now arguing against attacking Bashar al Assad’s regime in the face of compelling evidence that Assad has repeatedly used chemical weapons against his own people, to murderous effect.
But Errol Morris offers so much more. He conducted over 30 hours of one-on-one interviews with Rumsfeld to create his latest documentary, The Unknown Known.
As in The Fog of War, Morris’s Oscar winning documentary on Vietnam era defense secretary Robert McNamara, and Standard Operating Procedure, his exposé of the Abu Ghraib debacle, the director employed the Interrotron, his ingenious setup of mirrors and cameras that lets him interview his subjects as if they were talking face-to-face, when the subject is actually staring directly into the camera lens.
As Jason Kottke suggests in the post that clued me in to Morris’s new film, with Rumsfeld the direct eye contact technique is particularly chilling. Kottke also links to this Daily Beast interview with Morris about the film, which is worth a read.