The story behind the non-fiction film “Obama’s America 2016” has to be more interesting than the film itself.
How something this dull and murky managed to be funded and then theatrically released by Lionsgate (the same company responsible for the “Saw” movies and the Oscar-winning “Crash”) is utterly baffling.
A spin-off of the Dinesh D’Souza bestseller “Obama’s America” the movie became one of the very rare documentaries to be mass released to multiplexes.
I missed the film in theaters earlier this year and when I sat down with the DVD earlier in the week I hoped for some incendiary stuff on the current occupant of the White House — i.e. a right wing variation on Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 911.”
It’s not that the politics of the film offended me — the attack on Obama’s upbringing, religion and resulting world view never comes together in a lucid way. The bottom line appears to be that Obama’s time spent in Kenya and Indonesia have made him “anti-colonialist” and no friend to American capitalism. (D’Souza doesn’t address the notion that Obama’s relationship with Wall Street appears to as cozy as that of any of his predecessors.)
The success of the Michael Moore movies has only partially been the result of leftists wanting to have their prejudices reinforced — Moore is a very skilled entertainer as well as a polemicist.
Moore was able to use news footage that had audiences laughing as hard as they did at the fictional satire in “Dr. Strangelove.”
He showed us the president sitting there at that reading of “My Little Goat” in a Florida elementary school looking powerless and foolish as a massive terrorist attack was underway.
We were reminded of Condoleeza Rice’s confused testimony at the subsequent 9/11 commission session where she was finally forced to admit the name of that government report that circulated the summer before the attack (“I believe the title was Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside the United States”).
“Obama’s America 2016” has nothing remotely as vicious or as entertaining as the gruesome comedy of “Fahrenheit 911.”
Instead we follow an uncharismatic academic as he travels the globe in a failed search for a smoking gun that would establish his theory of Obama as a Manchurian candidate installed in our nation’s highest post for some treacherous purpose.
Rather than address us directly and establish a rapport with the viewer, D’Souza presents himself in mock interview footage where he spouts off to an unseen person. Moore looked us right in the face as he trashed the reputations of our nation’s leaders — like him or not, he laid all of his cards in the table.
The technical aspects of the D’Souza film are impressive — beautiful footage shot in exotic locales, state-of-the-art editing and scare music — but his thesis never comes together (as the detective in “Psycho” says, “If it doesn’t jell, it isn’t aspic”).
The attempt to give a sinister caste to Obama’s globe-hopping as a child and the domestic problems of his parents probably backfires with many viewers who will see their own mixed-up heritage and parental splits in the early years of our president. And who among us would want to be judged by all of the friendships we made in college and what old acquaintances of our parents might have to say about our childhoods?
The movie is really more about D’Souza than Obama. We hear all about his own arrival in America from India 30 years ago when he fell under the spell of Ronald Reagan and the conservatives he met at Dartmouth.
D’Souza’s frustration with Obama’s hold on a portion of the populace in purely symbolic terms seems to echo the Reagan critics who said he was just a very effective symbol for the rich and powerful people who funded Reagan’s rise to power.
It’s hard to believe that even the most virulent Obama haters have found the D’Souza film easy to sit through.