During every Presidential campaign, a couple of films are released that attempt to sway the outcome of the election — yet it would be hard to prove that any of them has ever had a significant influence. These diatribes usually speak to true believers and have no impact on the opposition. That will undoubtedly be the fate of 2016 Obama’s America, a film created by conservative author Dinesh D’Souza (who got his start in politics working in the Reagan White House) with the aim of demonstrating the dire consequences of a second Obama term. The film has already opened in the friendly territory of Texas and will be released in the rest of the country this month, where it will make few waves at the box office or at the polling booth.
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Although the film is unlikely to sway the undecided, it actually starts out as a fairly measured and informative recap of Obama’s personal history. D’Souza not only co-directed the film with John Sullivan; he is also the protagonist and on-screen narrator. He begins by detailing his own personal history as an Indian-American, born in Mumbai but educated in America, and comparing himself to Barack Obama, the son of a Kenyan father. In exploring Obama’s background, D’Souza breaks little new ground, mainly recounting history that is familiar from Obama’s own autobiography and other accounts. Still, this is a skillful summary, with some material that may not be widely known, like information on the time Barack spent in Indonesia with his mother and step-father, Lolo Soetero. (Apparently Obama’s mother was upset with her second husband when he went to work for an oil company, and she urged young Barack to be true to the more radical politics of his father.)
There are no startling or profound insights in this introductory section. A psychiatrist opines that an absentee father often has a significant influence on his son. (Gee, you really think so?) Still, there are vivid scenes shot in Indonesia and Kenya, including a brief, less-than-revelatory interview with Obama’s half-brother George. The details presented about Obama’s father and grandfather are fascinating, though it would be hard to make a case that men whom the President barely knew shaped his political philosophy in any comprehensive way.
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The film really goes off the rails in the last half hour, when it veers from biographical data to speculation on how Barack Obama Sr.’s anti-colonialist sentiments turned his son into a radical who aims to dismantle America’s traditional values. To prove his tendentious point, D’Souza trots out a familiar cast of characters. Frank Marshall Davis, a friend of Obama’s grandfather in Hawaii, was indeed a card-carrying member of the Communist Party, though the film fails to mention that when Davis joined the Party in the 1940s, such membership was perfectly legal. We hear about “Obama’s Chicago pal” Bill Ayers, though D’Souza admits that Obama met Ayers in 1995, 25 years after Ayers’ involvement with the Weather Underground. D’Souza also points out that Obama took a class at Columbia taught by Edward Said, the renowned pro-Palestinian scholar. Do any of these marginal associations prove that Obama aims to introduce socialism to America and undermine the state of Israel?
Other bits of “evidence” are just as obviously cherry-picked. The filmmakers show Obama fumbling when trying to explain his healthcare bill at a rally, but they mute the sound of the hecklers who clearly contributed to the President’s disorientation. D’Souza implies that Obama is sympathetic to radical jihadists while ignoring the killing of Osama bin Laden.
The film concludes by suggesting that if Obama wins a second term, America will be a completely different country by 2016. And it ends with the ominous words, “The future is in your hands.” No one doubts that the country faces major challenges in the next four years, but there is one safe bet: The future is unlikely to be affected by this simplistic documentary.
Production: Rocky Mountain Pictures
Writer-directors: Dinesh D’Souza, John Sullivan
Producers: Gerald R. Molen, Ann Balog, Doug Sain.
Executive producers: Dinesh D’Souza, John Sullivan, Christopher Williams
Art director: Colin Warde
Music: Calvin Jones
No rating, 87 minutes