In his groundbreaking documentaries, Errol Morris has tackled pet cemeteries (Gates of Heaven), the torture of suspected terrorists at Abu Ghraib (Standard Operating Procedure), Vietnam-era Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (The Fog of War) and tabloid journalism (Tabloid).
Morris’ game-changing 1988 documentary, The Thin Blue Line, used dramatic re-enactments and Morris’ experience as a private detective to investigate the case of Randall Dale Adams, a man convicted of and sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit. (Adams was exonerated and released from prison in 1989.)
Earlier this summer, Morris had his hand in yet another documentary sensation, The Act of Killing, which he co-produced with the legendary director Werner Herzog. This week Morris’ newest documentary, The Unknown Known, is currently in competition at the Venice Film Festival and has its North American Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film features former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as he reflects on his long career from his early days as a congressman to 2003’s invasion of Iraq. Below, Morris shares five—very pithy—”golden rules” of moviemaking.
1. If you know the answer to a question, why bother asking it?
2. Shoot others as you would have them shoot you.
3. Nothing is so obvious that it’s obvious.
4. Look for the unknown in the familiar.
5. Truth is not guaranteed by style. MM