Werner Herzog’s Minnesota Declaration

On April 30, 1999, filmmaker Werner Herzog visited the Walker Art Center to conclude a monthlong retrospective of his films with a public dialogue with critic Roger Ebert. But before the conversation began, Herzog walked to center stage, alone, and addressed the crowd: “Ladies and gentlemen, before we start this dialogue, I would like to make a statement. It is something that I have reflected upon for many years in the frustration of seeing so many documentary films. […] There’s something ultimately and deeply wrong about the concept of what constitutes fact and what constitutes truth in documentaries in particular.” He then read a list of 12 principles—one he’d expand upon 18 years later in a six-point addendum—dubbed the Minnesota Declaration. Reprinted, quoted, and debated again and again by film scholars and enthusiasts alike in the years since, the manifesto has proven historic: as Ebert later wrote, “For the first time, it fully explained his theory of ‘ecstatic truth.’”

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