Errol MorrisPhilosophically Minded Documentary Filmmaker
A documentarian drawn to the weird and wonderful.
It took getting kicked out of two graduate university programs for Errol Morris to realize his interest in philosophy and human nature didn't have to mean becoming an academic. Instead, Morris turned to documentary filmmaking with Gates of Heaven, his critically acclaimed 1978 debut about a California pet cemetery that respects the deep bond between humans and their pets while celebrating the then-fringe idea of memorializing them. It's this signature mix of compassion and fascination that keeps projects such as Vernon, Florida, a no-frills dive into some truly odd personalities, from seeming exploitative and condescending. The cathartic Thin Blue Line demonstrated the power of film by arguing for, and successfully winning, the release of Texas death-row inmate Randall Dale Adams and gave Morris a chance to flex his private-detective skills. He returned to his oddball roots with the everything-is-connected festival favorite Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, and later won an Oscar for the searing Fog of War, where former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara attempted to atone for his powerful influence on the Vietnam War. Whether through his many documentaries or his late-blooming writing career, Morris offers ways of exploring the messy, often-conflicted nature of truth that's provocative, thoughtful and always heartfelt.