“2016: Obama’s America” is an explanation of President Obama’s world view more than a prediction of the future. As such, the film is cagily titled to try to stir up box office receipts, which is a sad commentary on American filmgoers, as the movie is an excellent film when viewed without political controversy. Conservative writers/directors John Sullivan and Dinesh D’Souza, just like liberal Michael Moore, have an unapologetic political perspective—but theirs is from the right, not the left.
2016: Obama’s America” is based on Dinesh D’Souza’s 2010 book, “The Root of Obama’s Rage,” which hypothesizes that to understand Barack Obama’s perspective on America, one must understand the political viewpoints of the President’s mentors as a young man. The film opens by talking of D’Souza himself, and then sidling into the examination of the President’s political views by advocating that D’Souza, having a similar background, is uniquely able to understand President Obama. Basically, D’Souza contends that the perspective of Barack Obama is not a typical African American viewpoint, but is much more international in scope, and is heavily influenced by the anti-colonial philosophy of much of the third world today as opposed to the Civil Rights background of most African Americans. As evidence of President Obama’s “difference” from African Americans, D’Souza points out a number of the President’s actions since taking office, and shows how the typical African American would not share such a view. D’Souza then proceeds to examine the viewpoints of the President’s parents, stepfather, grandparents, college professors, childhood mentors, and adult business and personal associates, categorizes these as anti-colonial, and backs up that thesis with substantial evidence, in the form of personal interviews with the President’s associates and experts in the fields analyzed, as well as salient excerpts from the President’s autobiography.
D’Souza is largely successful in supporting his conclusions. Of particular interest is the discussion of people we today don’t often hear about, such President Obama’s childhood mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, and Edward Said, his advisor in college. Perhaps the most interesting portions of the movie involve interviews with President Obama’s grandmother, a great uncle, and his half-brother in Kenya; theirs is a fascinating look into their view of America that is compared and contrasted to the President’s apparent views.
D’Souza makes much of President Obama’s autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” parsing the title and using audio readings from it read by President Obama himself to startling effect. However, the emphasis on the senior Obama’s political views bogs down into a psychoanalysis of an abandoned child that frankly seems to be a stretch at times. Mercifully, D’Souza backs off from what could have been nothing but a psychological debate between experts.
It is not until the last fifteen minutes of the movie that we see D’Souza’s predictions for America after four more years of an Obama presidency. Up until this point, the movie has been a compelling biography of the President that explains much of his political actions and has left the viewer with a decidedly curious attitude; you find yourself wondering just what does make the President tick and why none of this information has been publicized before. Thus, we see a terrific analysis of the President devolve into political prognostication at the last moment, sapping all the energy from an otherwise artful and authentic biography.
Whether you are an ultra-conservative or an arch-liberal, this is a movie worth watching. It does not condescend. It does not spread rumor (birthers will be annoyed that D’Souza specifically asserts in the film that President Obama is born in Hawaii and is not a Muslim). You may not agree with D’Souza’s thesis at the end of the film (although the evidence is compelling) but you will definitely know more about the President.