2016: Obama's America
3 and 1/2 out of 4 stars
Easily the most globally familiar U.S. president since John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama assumed the highest office in the land with an almost otherworldly level of fawning popularity and an inordinately heightened level of self-imposed expectations.
The first president to take full advantage of the Internet, social media and the donations of the masses, Obama also did what Kennedy did almost 50 years earlier. He parlayed good looks, a deft mastery of verbal communication and an impossibly vague promise of improvement and sold it to America with a level of finesse rarely seen in American politics.
The tagline of "2016" states: "whether you love him or hate him, you don't really know him" and it is amazingly accurate. What the American electorate doesn't know about Obama could fill the Grand Canyon.
Unlike the bellicose and hyperbolic movies of the heavily left-leaning Michael Moore, "2016" co-writer/co-director Dinesh D'Souza's documentary comes off as comparatively humdrum. Although packed to the rafters with irrefutable facts and corresponding timelines that will pin back the ears of anyone who watches it -- regardless of their political affiliation -- it's actually kind of dry.
Judged purely as a piece of entertainment, D'Souza's movie is very good, but not great. Although thorough as it can be and often technically superior, it lacks the snap and sizzle of a Moore film. As a dispenser of fact and a faucet opened up at full tilt to expose the truth, it is indispensible; at least to anyone wanting to know of Obama's often cloaked upbringing.
Based in part on D'Souza's two books on Obama, "2016" is not as much a documentary as it is something of a cinematic crystal ball. The title itself is the first indicator that the movie is presented with a certain slanted perspective and presumptiveness that its detractors will find fault with, as is their right. This movie does have an agenda and it is not favorable to Obama, but that doesn't mean it's not at least mostly true and it could possibly scare the tar out of you.
What D'Souza does so masterfully -- and this can't be refuted or disputed -- is his culling of quotes taken directly from Obama's two books. These are books which pointed out details that were categorically untrue and ignored or were misrepresented in a manner that would better suit his ultimate goal of becoming president.
At the heart of D'Souza's film is the handful of men who acted in some form or fashion during Obama's formative years as his male role models and/or surrogate father figures. Two of them -- the Weather Underground member/alleged terrorist Bill Ayers and controversial cleric Jeremiah Wright -- are already well-known to most. The others -- best explored and profiled in the film -- include other far-left extremists, one of whom is an actual "card-carrying Communist."
What will come as a big surprise to most is D'Souza's flat avoidance of labeling or ever referring to Obama as a socialist or communist, which has been beaten to death by the political right. Instead, D'Souza cunningly asserts that what Obama has done as president is something more akin to anti- or reverse colonialism and how it connects with the real father he barely knew.
No one can or should argue that the movie is coming out at a most opportune time that will attract the most viewers; most of them probably entrenched deep in the anti-Obama camp. Lacking the relatively deep-pocket marketing dollars enjoyed by most of the films released by Moore, "2016" nonetheless has increased its per-screen take every week since its release and is poised to go into a much wider release over the coming weeks.
What's most interesting but not surprising about this film is that it has been flatly ignored and left abandoned by the broadcast media that neither wants to lend it credence or encourage anyone to see it. Again, the future portion of the movie is not fact -- and like most Moore movies based on past events -- is based on conjecture. The past portion however is hard to dismiss. What it lacks is Moore's usual reliance on raw emotion, avoidance of hard logic and a tendency to call on distracting smoke and mirrors. It comes down to what you're looking for most in a documentary: do want to be entertained or informed? (Rocky Mountain Pictures)