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2016: Obama's America2016: Obama's America
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2016: Obama's America - Official Trailer
In any other season, “2016: Obama’s America” would be dismissed as absurd. The film contains far-right conservative interpretations of inherently unverifiable information, namely that Barack Obama’s presidential politics are rooted in a Third World anti-colonial mindset influenced largely by his absentee father and his former associations with people the right wing find objectionable.
Its premise offers no real evidence—in fact, many of the film’s assertions are incorrect or misleading. But during election season, a film like this will gain traction because it speaks to those who are already predisposed to oppose Barack Obama and liberals in general. No minds are going to be changed—it will only serve to reinforce prejudices already held by people who weren’t going to vote for him anyway.
I don’t understand why films like these get made. There are more than enough reasons for a conservative not to vote for Obama without inventing nefarious schemes about the destruction of our society. In fact, I could come up with several reasons for liberals not to vote for him. This country has endured far worse administrations. But money is certainly a driving factor behind this type of film, as Dinesh D’Souza has already made $10.8 million from his film and much more off his book, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage.” But ultimately, when people are deliberately misinformed by a piece of journalism—as this film pretends to be—the journalist is being wildly irresponsible.
A good indicator of a poor documentary is an overwhelming presence of the filmmaker. “2016: Obama’s America” seems to be as much about D’Souza’s disingenuous personal quest to emphasize his similarities with Barack Obama as it is about who Barack Obama is as a person and a leader. He wants to be clear that he is a person of color, an immigrant, and an Ivy League graduate who made conservative choices rather than liberal. D’Souza spends quite a bit of time refuting the existence of racism in America, pushing the idea of American Exceptionalism, and defending white colonialism as a positive force in the world. He makes assumptions about Obama’s upbringing by quoting passages from the president’s memoir “Dreams From My Father,” carefully explaining that each passage points to a Third World collective mentality. He makes distinctions between good, old-fashioned American anti-colonialism and Third World collectivist anti-colonialism: Americans were throwing off the shackles of an oppressive monarchy. Kenyans were ungrateful of the gift the West bestowed on them with their presence. Barack Obama was raised with “tension between the Americanism and his Africanism. He himself is an intersection of major political forces in his own psychology.”
In D’Souza’s own mind, Obama always chooses “Africanism” over “Americanism” because of the powerful influence of a man he only met once. These are the same arguments that have been typed angrily into message boards across the Internet by conspiracy theorists and Tea Party patriots for the past four years. There is no real evidence, just loose associations and wild inventions of fanciful socialist machinations.
Among his evidence of President Obama’s anti-colonial mindset is the return of a bust of Winston Churchill after taking office. Churchill was much, much more than a symbol of colonialism, but D’Souza uses him as such. He demands that returning this bust is of enormous significance. However, White House curator William Allma has said, repeatedly, that the bust was simply on loan from Great Britain and was scheduled to be returned before Obama ever took office. There is another bust of Churchill on display in the private residence. He also cites as evidence that President Obama banned offshore oil drilling in the U.S. while encouraging it off the coast of Brazil and other areas in Latin American. He does not, however, mention the public opinion surrounding the Deepwater Horizon crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, nor that offshore oil drilling has been banned in the eastern gulf since 1995 and in Florida waters since 1992.
On the foreign policy front, D’Souza states that the Obama administration has done nothing to ensure Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon. He says nothing of the severe economic and trade sanctions against the country. It seems that each point made by the film is easily refuted by a simple Google search. None of the evidence cited by the film points to an anti-American radical hell-bent on turning the U.S. into a Third World, socialist society while encouraging the creation of an Islamic nation state in Middle East. And yet, this is exactly what the last 20 minutes of the film explicitly states.
The filmmaking itself is strangely done. As mentioned above, the film focuses quite a bit on D’Souza. He is in every scene, pretending to investigate every angle. It includes dramatic reenactments and music on par with that of “Unsolved Mysteries.” The interviews are nearly all scripted—sometimes so blatantly that one wonders why they bothered staging the interview at all. Of the unscripted interviews, D’Souza’s leading questions to Obama’s half-brother, George, in Nairobi is particularly jarring. D’Souza wants George to admit that his brother has abandoned him in squalor, but he doesn’t take the bait and the result is awkward and unsettling. The film states earlier that Barack Obama Sr. was a polygamist with multiple wives and many children. D’Souza seems to be arguing that President Obama should be intimately involved in the lives of distant relatives he’s never met. It’s nothing more than a smear tactic.
The film concludes with scenes of the liberal media denouncing D’Souza’s book, painting him as a victim of unfair bias. I suppose I now join their ranks. I expect documentaries to enlighten, not obfuscate. I believe there are better ways to spend your money. If you want to see a documentary, check out “Reportero,” a Chattanooga Film Society and Mis En Scenesters presentation of a film about reporters in Tijuana, Mexico, on Monday, Sept. 10, at the Downtown YMCA. I guarantee it will be more thought-provoking and factual and you can support local film at the same time.