Watch ‘The Umbrella Man,’ a Short by Errol Morris on the JFK Assassination and the Danger of Jumping to Conclusions
Posted on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 by Russ Fischer
What a treasure we have in Errol Morris. This year he already gave us Tabloid, a tremendously entertaining documentary that presents a wild, lurid story and uses it to sift for, if not factual truth, at least the perception of truth from a specific perspective. Truth and perspective have been two of the driving forces for Morris’ entire career as a documentarian, with both explored in detail through essays the filmmaker writes on a semi-regular basis for the New York Times.
The latest film from Morris is a six-minute short made for the New York Times. The Umbrella Man is a short interview with Josiah Thompson, a Kierkegaard scholar who also wrote Six Seconds in Dallas, the key book that argues for a three-gunman explanation for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
But this isn’t some conspiracy theory story. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is, as Thompson says, a cautionary tale, about the dangers of looking for evil where it might not exist.
Morris has a great talent for finding very engaging interview subjects and then enhancing the things that make them such good speakers. I don’t think he had to do much to Thompson, who is a bit like the Yoda of JFK assassination scholars. But his kicker statement is worth repeating, and should be taken as a core truth:
If you have any fact which you think is really sinister… which can only point to some sinister underpinning, hey, forget it, man. Because you can never on your own think up all the non-sinister, perfectly valid explanations for that fact.