When I spoke with Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith on February 4, 2010, their documentary had just been nominated for an Oscar, and so naturally that was a subject up for discussion, along with the implications for future financing and distribution of political documentaries.
Politics is certainly at the center of THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS as it traces the philosophical change that caused Ellsberg to go from upholder of the status quo to anti-war protester whose exposure of the secret history of the Vietnam War rocked the country and redefined free speech in the United States. The crux of the conversation dealt with those issues in the film, including the one I found the most fascinating, the disconnect between how people admire someone in theory for following his or her conscience, but not necessarily in practice.
THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS tracks the journey of Ellsberg, a product of the establishment, from a Pentagon and Rand Corporation analyst facilitating American involvement in the Vietnam War by staying silent about facts he knew, and cherry picking intelligence reports to reflect the reality the Johnson administration wanted the public to believe, to a conscience-stricken anti-war protester who decided in 1969 to make public classified material, dubbed the Pentagon papers. When it was published in 1971 by the New York Times, it rocked the country when it revealed the secret history of the Vietnam War and re-defined the limits of free-speech in an open society. Using archival footage, current interviews, and remarkable access to Ellsberg himself, the film considers how Ellsberg came to believe that he had no other choice but to come forward, and, in an object lesson that is as timely now as ever, why others believed that they could not.