Author Dinesh D’Souza is now a first-time filmmaker with the release of “Obama’s America 2016.” The documentary is based on his best-selling book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage – a book so over-the-top that even fellow conservative Andrew Ferguson of The Weekly Standard said it should have been called “The Roots of Lunacy.”
In the book, D’Souza portrays Obama, perhaps this country’s least-angry black man, as a seething anti-Colonialist, defined by race and shaped by radical professors during his years at Harvard. As Ferguson notes, D’Souza inflates facts to fit his theme. As “proof” that Obama was mentored by critical legal scholar Roberto Mangabeira Unger, D’Souza’s smoking gun is that Obama took two classes with the professor during the years when young Barack was also editing that notorious Communist manifesto called the Harvard Law Review.
The Hollywood Reporter’s review of the film by Paul Bond reports on D’Souza’s interview with Barack’s poverty-stricken half-brother George who lives in Kenya. According to Bond, try as he might, D’Souza failed to bait the man into criticizing his famous sibling’s performance as president.
Bond quotes D’Souza’s portrayal of Barack Obama’s father: “This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anti-colonial ambitions, is now setting the nation’s agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son.” Echoing Saturday Night Live’s skit with Seth and Amy, all I can say is, “Really?”
The film will play for at least a week at Celebration Cinema beginning Friday, August 24. Local manager Amanda Johnson says that the theater will then evaluate ticket sales, as it does with all films, to determine if it will remain on the roster.
Rabid anti-Obama conservatives no doubt hope D’Souza will emerge as their right-wing counterpart to Michael Moore. However, the film opened in limited release in July yet I cannot find it on Box Office Mojo’s list of current releases. While the film is not intended to be an even-handed documentary, the bland promotional trailer makes me wonder whether even conservatives will care.
There are only three reviews by movie critics on Rotten Tomatoes, though one is Andy Webster of The New York Times. Webster’s review is less than enlightening, though I did learn the film is rated PG for PG for “strong language and smoking.” (I couldn’t help but wonder whether Mayor Bloomberg will demand that films rated will be rated for whether they show people gulping big sugary drinks.)
While many budding filmmakers would be thrilled to have their work review by the NYT, RT’s audience reviewer Robert L, a self-avowed libertarian, sees a conspiracy instead: “My bigger question is: have the critics boycotted this film? Why are there only 3 reviews? Why listed as unreviewed? Would this be another “Atlas Shrugged” with 1% critic’s approval and 99% audience approval? You know what, love it or hate it, review it!” Take a few deep breaths, Robert.
The film is reminiscent of David Bossie’s political hatchet job on Hillary Clinton that was thinly disguised as a documentary called “Hillary: The Movie”. That was the film that led to the infamous Citizens United ruling. As the Washpo article recounts, the Federal Election Commission restricted Bossie’s right to advertise the film back in 2008, calling the efforts political advertising because Hillary was then running for president. The U.S. Supreme Court instead sided with the filmmakers, saying that the FEC unfairly restricted their corporate free speech.
The unpopular decision supports the notion that this feature-length anti-Obama screed is “entertainment” and not one long campaign ad for the GOP presidential ticket. No wonder people have been shaking their heads at decision that affirmed that “corporations are people” with the same First Amendment rights as human folks/second-class citizens currently enjoy (though I worry not for long).
The bigger question for me is transparency about who bankrolled the film.
The Hollywood-quality extravaganza features D’Souza galivanting “across the globe and in America,” as the press release says. As a fellow first-time filmmaker, Michael Moore held Bingo games in his hometown of Flint to raise enough money for gas to get to Detroit to film “Roger & Me.” So where did D’Souza find the funds for this lavish production?
According to Mariah Blake in Salon, D’Souza put together the kind of team that appeals to plutocrats. First, he recruited Oscar-winning producer Gerald Molen of Schindler’s List. Blake says that next on board was marketer John Sullivan, who produced a film on intelligent design that people like me have never heard of called “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” The almost-underground film generated $7.7 million in ticket sales.
Blake says D’Souza raised $2.5 million from right-wing 1 percenters, apparently including TD Ameritrade’s Joe Ricketts. Ricketts made headlines in May as one of a billionaire’s SuperPAC outed by The New York Times for seeking to flog the Jeremiah Wright story yet one more time. (Though I have not seen film, it appears the movie features Wright footage.)
If you like half-baked conspiracy theories, right-wing fantasies and a full deck of race cards along with your buttery popcorn, “Obama’s America 2016″ sounds like your cup of Tea (Party).