‘The Unknown Known’ & ‘The Green Prince’
Presented at 16th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival
Currently taking place in Johannesburg (The Bioscope) and Cape Town at Nu Metro V&A Waterfront and The Labia.
The Unknown Known Review
You may have heard it, the now infamous quote by former US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, but as bizarre as it sounded (and even ridiculous), the statement is actually very true. It was said in a difficult time with many people looking for answers amidst or at the height of the War on Terror, so even though it echoed the truth, it was not what the public wanted to here.
This documentary is shot in a basic and candid interview style with Donald Rumsfeld. It takes us though his time in the White House and his influence on America’s highest office; from Nixon to Ford, Carter and Bush Snr., to his eventual very public term under George Bush Jr.
It sheds light on their inner workings and influences at the time of the arrest of Saddam Hussein, as Rumsfeld negotiated the deluge or ‘blizzard’ of events and papers.
Although the pacing is, shall we say ‘contemplative’, it remains a very interesting film. Rumsfeld is very nonchalant in his approach and talks openly and honestly. One of the many revelations I took away from this, was the mentality within the US government. Although I see Rumsfeld now more as human who makes mistakes (not just a public figure and one of the former faces of the White House during the Bush administration), its clear to me how being in politics for so long can only have negative effects, that being said, he handled things in a very decent manner. One can’t blame him for looking at things (always) in the American light because that’s how he would think.
For many it will not be shocking or surprising, but it may well inform and enlighten – which is presumably its purpose, even though Rumsfeld was asked why he was conducting the interview – to which he replied that he honestly didn’t know.
The Green Prince
So many of us struggle in understanding the Israeli-Palestine/Hamas conflict, and often just when you think you’re formulating an opinion you learn something new that alters it. The Green Prince doesn’t delve too deeply into that history, but simply tells its honest story, which just so happens to be one of the most important of our time. It’s a deeply human story, that also happens to be a riveting espionage thriller.
This is based on the autobiographical book by Mosab Hassan Yousseff “Son of Hamas” – the eldest son of a top Hamas leader. After the Arrest of his father he was abducted by the Israeli intelligence and recruited as a spy with the codename of ‘The Green Prince’. The film focuses on the complex relationship between the source and the handler as Mosab is tasked with betraying his father, family and Hamas whilst putting faith in an Agency that openly doesn’t trust him. His story caused a great publicity and controversy in the US when he eventually applied for political asylum in that country.
This is easily one of the most intriguing, fascinating and emotional documentaries I’ve ever seen. It starts rather unassumingly, relying on intrigue as you’re taken into the (by now) very familiar world of espionage, from interrogation cells, drone camera footage to file footage. We’re introduced to Mosab and Gonen (his Shin Bet handler) – two enemies, and track the path of their transformation in a world where everything can end in death for either of them, with any false move.
This is a story of human sacrifice, perception versus reality, and even conjured reality, but more than that it’s a film about identity and morality, as you question your own motivations and resolve; what if you were in this situation – what would you do to save someone else’s life? This film also challenges our preconceived conceptions.
I’d recommend this to anyone.