A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the stated purpose of 2016: Obama's America is to help defeat President Obama's re-election efforts. It's a documentary, but -- like many other movies in the same genre in all shades of the political spectrum -- it has a clear political position and creates or finds audio and visual material to back up that premise. In this case, the filmmakers' conclusion is that Obama still struggles for identity in the face of having been abandoned by his father. To that end, the film posits that the president has been planning to use his second term to purposefully destroy the country. Your own political leanings will determine whether you find the movie persuasive or not, but other than a few brief newsreel clips showing war, rioting, and police brutality; some background smoking and social drinking; and a couple of exclamations such as "goddamn," there's nothing scary or provocative in the movie.
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What's the story?
Working from his book The Roots of Obama's Rage, filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza's main psychological speculation in 2016: OBAMA'S AMERICA is that Barack Obama is and has always been primarily driven by one central figure in his life: the father who abandoned him. (A source for this theory in the film is a psychologist who specializes in studying males without fathers but who doesn't appear to have met the president.) Starting with that premise and adding newsreel footage, on-camera and telephone interviews, photographs, and visuals from his own recent travels to Kenya and other places that the president has lived, D'Souza broadens the hypothesis and then draws dramatic conclusions about the president's motives, beliefs, and future agenda. According to the movie, the 44th president of the United States is a rabid anti-American, collectivist, pro-Muslim, pro-Palestinian radical who has been waiting for his second term to change the face of America for the worse.
Is it any good?
The filmmaking itself is sometimes clumsy and amateurish (i.e., specific visuals having no relationship to the accompanying audio, heavy-handed music, etc.). And while there's enough authenticity in the film (repeated footage of Reverend Jeremiah Wright's angry sermons, audio clips of Obama narrating his book Dreams from My Father, references to some of Obama's left-wing teachers, colleagues, and friends) to add a modicum of factuality amidst the conjecture and far-fetched rhetoric, it's doubtful that anyone but those who already entertain suspicions about or vehemently oppose the president would take this polemic seriously.
D'Souza released 2016 during the fall of 2012 in order to take advantage of -- and have an impact on -- the Obama-Romney presidential race. It's a slick maneuver, certain to reap box office dollars and add some controversy to an election season that has no shortage of media coverage already. Like famously liberal filmmaker Michael Moore -- albeit with a radically different agenda -- D'Souza is at the center of his film: prodding, reacting, interpreting, restating, and ominously proclaiming.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the various goals of filmmaking: to inform, to entertain, or to persuade. What is the primary purpose of 2016: Obama's America? How do you know? Why is it important to understand the filmmakers' purpose?
What are the differences between fact and speculation or opinion? What tools do we have to help us determine which is which?
Do you think documentaries are required to be objective? Why or why not?
- In theaters: August 24, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: October 16, 2012
- Cast: Dinesh D'Souza
- Directors: Dinesh D'Souza, John Sullivan
- Studio: Rocky Mountain Pictures
- Genre: Documentary
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: brief language and smoking images
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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