Documentaries have never been a popular film genre in the U.S. On occasion a rare documentary will capture the attention of the film going public, it will get an increase in hype and the movie will take off at the box office. But for the most part it rarely happens which is sad.
More sad it the recent trend in documentaries to be so over the top one sided that most become more propaganda than actual films about the topic being discussed. Rather than take movies like this to task for some reason, they've been held as the standard for the genre. The most blatant example of these are the films made by Michael Moore. Having won an Oscar for one and having made the most financially successful documentary to date, Moore's films are more about himself and his beliefs than they are about an open minded discussion of ideas seeking a center of the road approach. In Moore's films, it's his way or the highway. The fact that numerous web sites have popped up to show the falsehoods in his films says a lot.
So into this genre comes a new picture. And just like Moore's film FARENHEIT 9/11 which was released only weeks before this country voted for a new President, so has this film been released, in theaters months before hand but now on DVD within a month of the national election for President. That film is 2016: OBAMA'S AMERICA.
I'll admit up front that I tend to lean conservative when it comes to politics but when I'm watching a film I try to judge it based on what it presents, how it presents it and just how misleading it can be. There have been propaganda pieces done by the right as much as by the left. The only difference is that in Hollywood to lean right means to be chastised as out of touch or a traitor so folks rarely have movies made with that political perspective. If you don't think that's true, try telling Stacy Dash.
So when I sat down to watch this film I wanted to see if it was no more than a film much like the ones Moore has made or was it more of a true documentary? I'm glad to say that while it doesn't present President Obama in the best light, it does seem well researched and even handed. Rather than insert insults and caustic comments, the film offers interviews with various participants and allows them to speak for themselves.
Co-writer/co-director/co-producer Dinesh D'Souza based most of the movie on his novel THE ROOTS OF OBAMA'S RAGE. He begins the film by discussing similarities to his life and that of Obama. Both had a foreign parent, both are men of color, both were born in the same year, both went to Ivy League schools and both graduated from those colleges. But their views on this country and how their views were shaped were vastly different. Where D'Souza saw this as a land of opportunity, Obama's views were of a country where America was trying to rule the world rather than present opportunity.
D'Souza focuses much of his research and opinions on the books that Obama wrote, especially DREAMS FROM MY FATHER. In the title alone he theorizes that Obama wasn't writing about dreams presented from his father to him but dreams that his father had. These greatly involved anti-colonialism and in so doing present an image of why he has followed up trying to do some of the things he has done while in office. One example is of his sending a bust of Winston Churchill back to England which many questioned. The reason presented here is that it represented the British Empire which had held his father's land in check for many years.
While the better part of the film is discussing the things that D'Souza researched, it doesn't just stick with his ideas but presents the facts through archived footage of the President as well as interviews with people who knew him and his father. The most talked about interview involves his half brother George, a man living in poverty who has never talked to his half brother nor asked him for anything. This man presents a much different picture of the President's father than we've heard before.
It also leads to a fearful prediction of where this country will go if President Obama is re-elected in 2012. This is the only section where rather than go with straight facts D'Souza theorizes as to what might happen. Granted, he uses the words of those interviewed as well as information well known about the President's past history and who he was shaped by while growing up, but it's still just theory. The good part is that D'Souza never presents it as anything more than that. It's his belief, something Moore never seems to state in his films.
While the movie is well made and well researched, it is sure to cause controversy, more so since the DVD release has been made so close to the election. It is a film that many should watch just to find out things that the major media failed to discover or at least reveal during the election of 2008.
Sadly the film will find supporters that will cheer portions of it blindly thinking of it as an attack film which it definitely is not. Those on the other side of the fence will condemn the film and talk about how it's filled with lies while never viewing it. Rather than allow the far ends of either right or left make the decision for you, I would suggest that people watch the film and make up their own minds. I would also suggest that rather than except anything seen as pure fact, do more research and find out the answers to the questions it raises. In any event, this is one film that should be seen.
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