In “The Unknown Known”, Academy Award®-winning director Errol Morris offers a mesmerizing portrait of Donald Rumsfeld, the larger-than-life figure who served as George W. Bush’s secretary of defense and as the principal architect of the Iraq War. Rather than conducting a conventional interview, Morris has Rumsfeld perform and explain his “snowflakes” – the enormous archive of memos he wrote across almost 50 years in Congress, the White House, in business, and twice at the Pentagon. The memos provide a window into history – not as it actually happened, but as Rumsfeld wants us to see it. Morris pays special attention to Rumsfeld’s linguistic gymnastics. Indeed, the title of the documentary is taken from a much-quoted Rumsfeld aphorism: “There are known knowns, there are known unknowns, there are unknown unknowns, but there are also unknown knowns: things that you think you know but that it turns out you did not”. But by focusing on the snowflakes, with their conundrums and contradictions, Morris takes us beyond this web of words and into the unfamiliar terrain of Rumsfeld’s mind, showing how the ideas, fears and certainties of one man, written out on paper, transformed America, changed the course of history – and led to war.
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