2016: Obama's America

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2016: Obama's America is a silly, paranoid documentary by Dinesh D'Souza and produced by the even crazier Gerald R. Molen, who previously worked with Steven Spielberg on such films as Schindler's List and Jurassic Park, about how terrible it would be if Barack Obama were to win re-election.[1] It is based substantially on D'Souza's book The Roots of Obama's Rage. The film opened in limited release in July of 2012, and expanded nationwide in August.[2]

Content[edit]

Conducted in a manner similar to Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, D'Souza's movie is presented as an honest man searching for answers, interviewing people who just happen to all supply pieces to a larger vision. In this case, the vision is of an Obama who is motivated primarily by the anti-colonialist sentiments of his father, an avowed Marxist.[3] Accordingly, D'Souza suggests that Obama has acted to punish former colonial powers in general and America in particular, rewarding former colonies —especially the Muslim ones:

As reinforced by the recurring image of an Obama stand-in prostrate before his father's grave somewhere in the Kenyan bush, America is haunted by the Mau-Mau zombie of a “failed, Third World collectivism.” The president vindictively raises taxes, even on the poor (who are, after all, rich by Third World standards).[4] At once socializing and destroying the US economy, he facilitates the transfer of wealth to Brazil and other points south. He embarks on unilateral nuclear disarmament amid worldwide nuclear proliferation and, most dramatically, by engineering America's decline, enables the birth of a United States of Islam, visualized on a map as an algae-green mass engulfing Israel as it extends from Morocco to a region that could be Iran, or possibly Pakistan. In the clinching scene, a group of starry-eyed children led by an over-enthusiastic teacher sing an Obama campaign song as though it were the North Korean national anthem.
—J. Hoberman, NYRB blog[5]

To its credit, the film does not engage in birther nonsense.[6]

Predictive value of film's thesis[edit]

In the film, most of the "evidence" of President Obama's attitude as an anti-colonial Marxist is a matter of style rather than substance: Obama is too subservient to some foreign leaders or too hostile to others; he gives speeches with phrases that refer to specific ideas; or he has in the past associated with controversial figures. The real hard proof of D'Souza's thesis, the movie suggests, would come in Obama's second term, when he would be free to engineer the rise of Islam and fall of the West.

Obama did win a second term in 2012, giving an opportunity to test whether or not the book and movie were engaging in reasoned thought, or in unsubstantiated fearmongering of the Other. To date, Israel remains in existence and Obama's foreign policy remains firmly center-right. Sanctions against Iran have a chance to loosen depending on the outcome of a nuclear non-proliferation deal, which isn't particularly bad for the West.

Production[edit]

D'Souza says he was inspired by Michael Moore, and wanted to create a conservatives' version of Fahrenheit 9/11.[2] Evidently the fact that that film didn't stop Dubya from being re-elected didn't bother D'Souza too much.

The film is being distributed by Rocky Mountain Entertainment,[7] well known for such thought-provoking films as Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed and Atlas Shrugged: Part I, as well as some apolitical junk called Standing Ovation.[8] 2016 is by far the distributor's highest-grossing film, which says more about the prior failures of the company than anything else.

Reception[edit]

The film has a 29% rating on film review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, with eight positive (or "fresh") reviews and twenty negative (or "rotten").[9] That's actually pretty good for a conservative film – they're notorious for really terrible movies. One critic, Bill Goodykoontz, noted a key difference between D'Souza's style and that of Moore: "Moore wants to poke you in the eye with his films, start a fight. D'Souza's film is much more an exercise in preaching to the choir."[10]

By the end of September, 2016 had grossed over $32 million, making it the second highest-grossing political "documentary" (behind Fahrenheit 9/11, maintaining an insurmountable lead at roughly $119 million) and the fourth highest-grossing "documentary" overall (behind Fahrenheit, March of the Penguins... and a Justin Bieber movie).[11]

References[edit]

  1. The film's "about" page
  2. 2.0 2.1 Obligatory Fox News coverage
  3. "Long-lost article by Obama's dad surfaces", Politico
  4. Ironically, 2016 is criticizing the very proposals of the so-called "53%."
  5. [1]
  6. Review in Variety: "early on, [D'Souza] announces Obama was born in Honolulu, and that's that."
  7. Box Office Mojo
  8. I actually had to sit through a few minutes of this garbage once. Not pretty.
  9. RT page
  10. Review
  11. Box Office Mojo again — political documentaries and general documentaries