The new anti-Obama documentary, 2016: Obama’s America is making news, much to the surprise – of everybody. Dinesh D’Souza, president of The Kings College in New York City and former Ronald Reagan policy advisor made the film with John Sullivan, who previously made a Ben Stein documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (2008). The two men wrote, produced and directed the film together for a reported budget of $2.5 million.
What astonished the American public and Hollywood press was that the conservative documentary earned $6.5 million from 1,091 theaters last weekend. That was more than each of the three favorably anticipated Hollywood films Premium Rush, Hit and Run, and The Apparition brought in. While the film might not be breaking overall box office records for Hollywood distributed films, it has now become the number one grossing documentary in 2012.
2016: Obama’s America was only in 1,091 theaters last weekend. This Friday, The Wrap reports, that number will expand to 1,800. Considering all the publicity the film has garnered from its early box-office performance, and the amount of trending it has generated on the internet, the film actually stands a good chance to make a respectable profit.
Does Obama want to destroy America?
That is the question at the heart of this film. How does D’Souza pose such an inflammatory proposition? Essentially, by using Obama’s own words against him. More specifically, analyzing the psychology behind the popular Obama autobiography, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, D’Souza asserts through his own conjecture and interviews with psychologists that Obama was trying to find his identity as an adult by examining the life, beliefs and teachings of his estranged father.
Obama’s father, who died in a car crash in Kenya in 1982, was a mythical figure in Obama’s life. What D’Souza argues is that Obama gives away his agenda in the book’s title when he uses the word “from” – essentially admitting he is attempting to carry on the legacy of his father’s dreams. What are those dreams? Basically, Obama’s father wanted to destabilize any governments with colonial interests. In short, his father was a Communist who believed in academic and political writings involving Marxism, anti-colonialism and most things that would destabilize a capitalist culture.
What D’Souza wants the movie-goer to accept is that in order to fulfill his identity as the son of a political dissident, Obama, is in fact, a dissident himself, who managed to fool the American public, get elected as President of the United States, then began quietly but systematically dismantling government programs and sabotaging strategic relationships with U.S. allies in order to compromise America’s position of world dominance. Is this the truth or an exaggeration? This is something audience members are expected to figure out for themselves. Presumably by doing some of their own research once they leave the theater to see if D’Souza’s argument could be right or a completely far-fetched thesis designed to inflame the right-wing voters.
How to watch a documentary film like 2016: Obama’s America
All documentaries are made with an agenda. The filmmaker has a specific point of view, a message or an idea they want to share. It doesn’t matter if the message is right or wrong, or if people agree or disagree with it, that is the point. The film is made to spread the word – whatever that word may be.
The best thing to do while watching any documentary is to keep some of the following questions in mind:
• Who is making the film? What are the filmmaker’s politics and beliefs?
• Why is this film coming out at this point in time/history?
• Are the assertions of the filmmaker provable? Factual? Or conjecture?
• Why do you agree or disagree with the message? Are you basing your response on emotion or factual knowledge?
• Do you feel there was some argument missing? If so, how do you think it should have been handled? Would that have changed the message of the film?
The ultimate goal of many documentary filmmakers is to influence the audience without them realizing they have been swayed. That is the purpose of any political documentary. No documentary is necessarily telling the entire story. It is telling the story as argued by that filmmaker.
What is possibly most significant about this film is not its inflammatory content; rather, it is the fact that it is making significant box office strides and a far larger number of Americans are going to see the film than anybody considered possible. While some might be going to support the Republican efforts, others might be going to rebuke them. Most importantly, what should come out of this documentary and all the rhetoric surrounding it is the following question: What is Obama’s agenda? Not just what he says in his speeches but what do his documented actions tell the American public and the rest of the world? Then the American public can decide for themselves if he stands for hope or destruction.