2016: Obama's America: an exegesis

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The filmmaker
  • markn3tel
  • The filmmaker
I see that there is no review in the Reader's voluminous archives of Dinesh D'Souza's recent documentary, 2016: Obama's America. This should either be taken as evidence of the liberal media conspiracy's disdain for Dinesh D'Souza's First Amendment right to have his shitty movie reviewed far and wide, or, more positively, as affirmation of the fact that our film writers have better taste (though, maybe, weaker stomachs) than people like (say for example) me. Spying the film at the RedBox the other night, I thought to myself, Well, D'Souza's having a lousy week, what with all his confusion over whether he's married or not; might as well kick $1.30 his way. Not long after, I was sitting down in front of this surprisingly stylish documentary, in which D'Souza, as narrator and protagonist, advances his theory that Barack Obama's life constitutes a kind of Manchurian Candidate-like quest to avenge his Kenyan anticolonialist father, a project he initiated when he returned a bust of Winston Churchill to the British. Obama was pissed 'cause Churchill was a colonialist.

Not that you care, but a) the bust was actually on loan from the British, not a U.S. government possession, and b) really it was just moved to another room in the White House.

No fact will stand in opposition to 2016's thesis, though. He begins the film by comparing his biography to Obama's: because D'Souza was born in India and Obama is a third-world liberation fighter, and also because both men went to Ivy League schools, D'Souza sees some similarities between them. Early in the film he carps about the liberalism he discovered upon matriculating to Dartmouth, where there were always white guys in ponytails trying to talk to him about India at his international-student potlucks, but he needn't have worried about those fellows: they now run hot-yoga studios and they don't bother us. Conversations are rendered with voice-over narration by D'Souza while his characters mouth the words—pretty much like they do it on the YouTube series Drunk History, but with less truck with accuracy.

Then D'Souza recalls a debate he had at Stanford with Jesse Jackson in which Jackson advanced the theory that racism in the United States, in its modern form, is more covert than overt. Here's how that's represented visually: A black guy walks into a bar. After he sits down, some white folks look askance at him and then they leave. He looks pretty sad about all the racism. Then a while later the white people come back with a BIRTHDAY CAKE, because it turns out it's the black guy's BIRTHDAY, and the strangers at the bar totally weren't dicks; they just left to buy a birthday cake for a stranger they noticed moping in the bar, in the interest of racial harmony.

This is all a roundabout way for D'Souza to get to his real concern, which is some "unusual decisions" he noticed Obama making in his first term. The Churchill bust is literally the first thing he mentions. Also something about oil drilling, and NASA not being allowed to go to the moon anymore, but the point is made about Obama's vaunted "dream" for the country: "Is it America's dream, Martin Luther King's dream . . . or someone else's dream?" He notices another thing about dreams, too, with respect to Obama's book: "Notice it says Dreams From My Father, not Dreams of My Father."

An investigation being warranted, D'Souza travels to Indonesia, where he shoots b-roll of himself riding a little boat and catching a ride on the back of a little scooter. Then he travels to Hawaii to shoot some b-roll of himself doing some kind of Hawaiian line dance. Then he goes to Kenya, where he really brings to bear the hammer of investigative journalism. First he talks to somebody named Granny Obama, one of five wives married to Barack Obama's grandfather; she tells him that Barack Obamas Sr. and Jr. are pretty similar, but then she gets pissed and throws him out of her house. Then D'Souza visits Barack Obama's hot half-brother George, who's surely due for an American tour, or at least a spread in GQ. (He finds George Obama by googling "George Obama.") George hasn't been a personal recipient of Barack Jr.'s socialism, a possible resentment the filmmaker tries to inflame by throwing Cain and Abel at him. Is Barack Obama his poor hot half-brother's keeper? D'Souza wonders. George Obama seems nonplussed, in the way that people generally think "nonplussed" means, not in the way that it actually means. In that sense he's not very nonplussed.

At this point D'Souza invoked the nefarious crew he calls "Obama's founding fathers"—Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, et al—and I started to fold some laundry. But flagging attention spans will be rewarded in the end, when D'Souza neatly recaps his points: Winston Churchill bust. (Churchill wasn't revealed to be a colonialist when this list was first presented, to preserve the suspense. Now's like the scene in The Shining where Jack Nicholson gets his ax in the bathroom door, only it's about a Winston Churchill bust and story that's not meant to be fiction.) NASA. Oil. Vicious undercover agent bent on taking down the country in the name of Kenyan anticolonialism. "The future is in your hands," D'Souza intones at the end. But not in his hands anymore. His hands are full with lady troubles. And maybe finding a new job, now that he just got canned from his old one.

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