2016: Obama America Movie: Review and Spoilers of The Most Powerful Documentary of the Year
I saw the first showing of Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary 2016: Obama’s America yesterday morning. As the previews suggested, I knew I was in for a wild ride.
What I saw was a side of President Obama we may have seen if the media had done its job properly in 2008. Not only did I receive more information than I could possibly convey in one article, but I saw a film that ended up changing my entire perspective (warning: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD).
The film kicks off with producer and narrator Dinesh D’Souza discussing the similarities he and Obama shared, which I felt was an interesting intro. Both men were born in 1961, and both had ancestral roots were shaped in the ashes of colonialism. D’Souza, the current president of The King’s College in NYC, was born in India. President Obama’s father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., was from Kenya. Both of these nations were former British colonies.
I realized quickly that there was a reason for this comparison, which became a motif throughout the film.
What followed was a narrative of the president’s life immediately after his birth in Hawaii. For all of you people hoping this was a ‘birther’ film, you’ll be sadly disappointed. Not only does this film acknowledge the presidents place of birth, but also it makes sure to mention the two newspapers that carried his birth announcement.
A brief dialogue ensued about the views of President Obama’s parents, Barack Obama Sr. and Stanley Ann Durham. Obama Sr. was driven by a strong sense of anti-colonialism, while his mother was a secular humanist and collectivist.
Barack Obama Sr. soon left his son and wife to attend Harvard, after which he returned to Kenya, where he ended up becoming a rather prominent individual according to several older residents who were interviewed by D’Souza. The president’s mother soon married Lolo Soetoro, who was from Indonesia. The family relocated to Indonesia, where they remained for several years.
During this time, D’Souza reveals that throughout the president’s formative years, Soetoro becomes less ideologically connected to his mother. He ends up joining the Indonesian army and worked for a Western oil company, all the while becoming more anti-communist, which disgusted the president's mother. During their entire time in Indonesia, young Barack Obama is constantly told by his mother what an amazing man his biological father was, and how the anti-colonial ideology that drove him was the correct ideology for the future. Then things got interesting.
D’Souza explains how young Barack went to Hawai’i to stay with his grandparents, who were far to the left ideologically. His grandfather was close with Communist and writer, Frank Marshall Davis. Davis was on the FBI’s watch list, and considered a possible domestic threat at the time. Young Obama’s grandfather believed that Davis was the perfect role model for the boy.
The film goes into depth about Davis and others, whom D’souza calls “Obama’s Founding Fathers.” Upon moving to Chicago and then heading off to college, Obama attends several classes of Professor Edward Said, who was extremely pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli in his views. Later on he met up with former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, who later would throw one of Obama’s first fundraisers.
Then the film goes on to talk about the last of these founding fathers, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. One of the leaders in Black Liberation Theology, Rev. Wright performed Obama’s wedding, and baptized his two children. The two became quite close, until Obama decided to run for president. The film plays sound clips of the Jeremiah Wright stating that he was offered money to shut up about Obama, but declined. Thankfully for the president, most of the media ignored Wright in 2008.
During his most formative years, President Obama was immersed in a sea of leftist, socialist, Marxist and anti-colonialist views, but these men only helped to fine-tune what had already been set by the ghost of his father.
Upon hearing about his father’s death, Obama goes to Kenya to visit the grave. Overlaid upon images of the gravesite is the president’s own voice, taken in its entirety from his first memoir, Dreams From My Father. The audience was sat in stunned silence as they heard the president’s voice talk about how he would finish what his father had started.
D’Souza spoke briefly with a psychologist who explained that sometimes children with absentee fathers don’t loathe them, as most would expect. Sometimes, they idolize an image of them. In the case of President Obama, this image was bolstered by the constant praise his mother heaped on the man he barely knew.
Seeing this film, it became painfully obvious why the president has done the things he has. 2016: Obama’s America does not label the president a socialist, a foreigner or a Muslim. What it does call him is an anti-colonialist, and a particularly vicious one at that. While the 20th century colonial powers have died out and retreated to their own borders, he views America as his father did. Obama Sr. believed that America was a colonialist nation, although instead of conquering other nations, it took their resources and manufactured them for their own benefit.
Obama returned the bust of Winston Churchill, out of a latent disgust for the United Kingdom’s colonial heritage. He also has indicated support for Argentina in their dispute with Britain over the Falklands.
Rather than increasing drilling and Okaying the Keystone Pipeline, Obama sent money to Mexico, Colombia and Brazil so that they could drill, and that we could buy from them. As for Obama supporting Muslim uprisings in the Middle East, regardless of what radicals may have come to power? He viewed it through the same prism. The "99%" of those nations were taking the power back from those that were instilled because of colonial influence, and because of the west. Why didn't he support the Iranian Green Revolution? Because they were trying to overthrow an anti-West regime.
The two highlights of the film for me however, were interviews with the president’s brother, George Obama, and Shelby Steele, of the Hoover Institution. George Obama spoke of a very different worldview than the one his older brother believed in.
George believed that anti-colonial resentment had held Kenya back. He described that when the country gained independence in the early 1960s, it was actually ahead of others, like India, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea. Now those countries are all booming, while Kenya is still struggling. Even South Africa, which only achieved full independence two decades ago, is growing by leaps and bounds.
He believed that Kenya was not held back because it was a former colony, but because it clung on to leftist ideologies while other former colonies had moved towards capitalism. George speculated that it might have actually helped Kenya if the British had left later on, like in South Africa.
Shelby Steele spoke briefly about how Obama, being half black and half white, represented a chance for all of America to cast a vote and collectively alleviate the nation of guilt. Whether it worked or not, they could say that they were there when the first African American president was elected. Because of this, and because of the president’s uncanny ability to speak and disarm a crowd with ease, people were eager to buy into whatever it was he said, no matter what it was. They wanted to be a part of it.
No conspiracy theories. No Muslim this or socialist that. Instead, 2016: Obama’s America makes the case that the president is an anti-colonialist carrying out dreams from his father. He believes that America got to where it is unjustly, and that he can use his position as president to undo the wrongs and transfer the wealth to the poorer nations of the world. Higher taxes? Sure, even Americas poorest would be rich elsewhere.
Free from elections in a second term, Obama could do more of what he really wants. No more having to veil some of his policies in a way that would make people believe he is bipartisan. If given the chance, he will right the wrongs as he sees fit, regardless of what happens to America’s place in the world.
This documentary is well made, and will show you more than any interview or biography ever could. I highly recommend it, whether you are a fan of President Obama or not.
At the end of the film, I noticed an elderly British couple sitting behind me. The wife stood up as the credits rolled and summed things up perhaps better than I or any American ever could: “Scares the bloody hell out of me.”