Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The only thing wrong with the superb documentary that makes its debut on DVD today, July 20, is the length of its marquee-hoarding title. The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (I didn't capitalize this, as is my usual style, for fear that it would take up the remainder of the day's available space) is the grade-A product of filmmakers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith (with co-writing by Michael Chandler and Lawrence Lerew).  It is so immediately accessible, thanks to the talent of this creative team, that I think young or old, Democrat or Republican*, there will be few who can nay-say the importance of uncovering the truth -- and blasting it out -- once a government has lied to its own people about something as important as a war that has cost thousands of lives at home and tens of thousands in the adversarial country.

How and why Daniel Ellsberg (that's he back in the day, above, and present-day, below), the man who exposed the Lyndon Johnson administration's lies about Vietnam, accomplished his great feat is the subject of the film.  The impact of his actions on how we view the lies that led us into the current war in Iraq will not, I hope, go unnoticed by viewers of the film -- though the filmmakers themselves make reference only obliquely, as I recall, to this connection. I first saw the documentary just prior to its Film Forum run last September, at which time I'm happy to say, I predicted its "Oscar" nomination for Best Documentary. (I wouldn't have minded at all had it won, though I admit that The Cove was, in its own way, unique, extremely important, and the epitome of smart, galvanizing "advocacy film-making.")

If you have not yet seen the Ellsberg movie, consider this your heads-up.  It is simply too good to miss, from both a content standpoint and as an object lesson on how to put together a talking-heads/historical footage/you-are-there documentary that is moving, riveting and goddamn important.  You can find my earlier review/post here.

*I would dearly love to believe what I wrote above, but considering the behavior of most Republicans, from elected officials to rank-and-file, over that past decade (or more), it is clear that they have about as much concern for truth and transparency-in-government as the still unprosecuted ex-President Bush fils and war criminal Henry Kissinger.  Still, I have hope that there are a few Republicans and many Democrats out there who do understand the importance of this -- even if, as it continues to appear, our current (and -- oh, my gosh, he's a Democrat!) President does not.


Anonymous said...

Saw that docu last night. I was really impressed and it should be mandatory viewing for all history students, i.e. to what lengths 'the system' goes to preserve its power.
What occurred to me afterwards is this: It was possble because one newspaper after the other held up the baton. With the subsequent rise and dominance of Murdoch's News Corp./FOX, uncovering the system's lies would be more difficult as Murdoch has monopolised the scene, first in Australia, then in Britain, then in the US. Murdoch's rise, and the system's campaign to fend off his bankruptcy in about 1987 may well have been engineered to prevent further uncovering of lies. The fight against WikiLeaks fits into these parameters.

James van Maanen, said...

I think you're probably correct in your speculations, Anonymous. I'm not sure where you're based, but with the recent government-approved merger here in the USA of cable giant Comcast and NBC, things look even worse for whistle-blowers, truth-finders and truth-tellers. Good luck to us all.