Directors: Errol Morris.
Topic: Examines former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s pivotal role in modern history during the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
Financier: Sony Pictures Classics
Budget: Approximately $2 million
Shooting format: 35mm and 24-frame, high-definition video
Why it made the list: Never-before-seen historic footage and audiotapes recorded in the White House; Morris interviewed McNamara with his Interrotron, a device that creates the impression of direct eye contact between the viewer and the interview subject. Elegiac score from Philip Glass and superior production values set film apart.
Memorable scene: Vintage re-enactments of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident from the National Archives
Distribution/broadcast status: Opens Dec. 19 in L.A. and NYC
On making the film: Helmer Morris, a former Guggenheim fellow and MacArthur grant recipient, avoids narration or third-party clarifications. He describes the film as “an intensely subjective account” intended to give a heightened sense of McNamara’s mental landscape.
Exhaustively researched, film showcases previously unseen footage and unheard audiotapes from the National Archives. Subtitled “Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara,” docu investigates the secretary’s (and America’s) reasoning for war and the use of disproportionate deadly force in WWII and Vietnam.
“From its first public screening in Cannes to now, every week makes the movie more current,” says Morris. “It’s actually somewhat disheartening that McNamara is talking of events 40, 50 and 60 years ago, and we realize that he could just as easily be talking about events from four, five or six days ago.”
The omission of Morris’ 1988 docu “The Thin Blue Line” from Oscar consideration is still considered one of the Acad’s more egregious snubs.