Documentaries made by adult children about their fathers have become a significant new genre. My Architect is the story of Louis Kahn by the son he never publicly acknowledged. In Tell Them Who You Are, filmmaker Mark Wexler trains his camera on his cinematographer father, Haskell. And in “Five Wives, Three Secretaries, and Me,” Tessa Blake uses her million dollar trust fund to make a movie about her multiply-married father, Texas oilman Thomas Walter Blake, Jr. All of these films, in their way, are about secrets. But this film, about the head of the CIA, is about family secrets and national security secrets, too. Can a man whose job is keeping secrets share enough of himself to be a good father? Does a man who loves secrets even want to be? “I’m not sure he ever loved anyone, and I never heard him say anything heartfelt,” says his son, Carl.
Part family story, with insightful comments from the woman who was wife to the movie’s subject and is mother to the movie’s director and part “Fog of War”-style exploration of America’s role in post-WII international affairs with a Who’s Who of Cold War policy-makers, this is a riveting and important film that does not rest too heavily on the connection between its subject’s personal emptiness and the moral failures Colby would come to regret. He kept so many secrets he lost touch with the reasons. Its elegiac tone concluding in Colby’s mysterious death — alone — in a boating accident, ties together the sense of personal, professional, and national loss.