America

  • Review Date: July 5, 2014
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Highly charged docu has strongly conservative message.
  • Review Date: July 5, 2014
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Depending on your political beliefs, the film's message about conspiracy and destruction will either resonate with you or not. The arguments are stated as fact, then all material included is designed to confirm that presumption.

Positive role models

Carefully selected actions and words in reenactments of events and speeches by Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Alexis de Tocqueville, and other historical figures are used to bolster the filmmakers' ideas. Conservative politicians and intellectuals are presented as admirable, dedicated, and insightful, while all representatives of the left (including earnest academics) are depicted as either naive or wrong-headed. Some liberal leaders and scholars are blatantly accused of wanting to destroy the American way of life. 

Violence

Re-enactments of historical battles show gunfire, bayonets, and violent hand-to-hand combat; men are killed and fall to the ground. One theoretical scene shows a sniper firing on and killing George Washington. 

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A few characters smoke (particularly in the filmed reenactments).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that America -- a documentary film from Dinesh D'Souza and John Sullivan -- has a distinctly conservative point of view. It uses interviews, newsreel footage, reenactments (some showing violent battles with rifles, bayonets, and on-camera deaths), as well as speeches and the written words of America's founders to claim that there's an ongoing conspiracy, fuelled by leftist radicals, to shame America, undermine the country's principles, and ultimately cause its destruction by "suicide" from within. D'Souza is the interviewer, the narrator, and the lecturer. A few short scenes depart from actual history -- i.e. in a reenactment, George Washington is killed by a sniper's bullet, but he's soon on screen again, alive and well, as he leads the country in its formative years.​ How this film will be perceived depends mostly on viewers' existing attitudes and beliefs. ​For those who come to the film with no preconceptions, it’s crucial to have resources for fact-checking and to understand who the players are and what they hope to achieve.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Divided into three parts, AMERICA argues that the American people are being tricked into believing that the country unfairly bears responsibility for tragic circumstances that occurred throughout its history. And that, the film states is no accident, positing that covert forces hope they can polarize the nation by shaming American citizens, remaking the country as a leftist socialist nation with little influence in the world. Filmed reenactments are used in an attempt to shore up these theories. Great statesmen and thinkers (Abraham Lincoln, Alexis de Tocqueville, Ronald Reagan, Frederick Douglass, etc.) are quoted and portrayed. Academics and politicians are interviewed at length, as are Native American, Mexican-American, and African-American activists. In Part One, the film lists and develops the five crimes for which the United States is mistakenly blamed: Theft of Land (and genocide against the Native American population), Theft of Territory (the victim: Mexico), Theft of Labor (slavery and the resulting segregation and racism), Theft of Resources (victim: the world), and Theft of the American Dream (victim: the American people; perpetrator: greedy capitalists). Part Two refutes each of those charges, one by one (i.e., America wasn't the only country that had slaves; whites were slaves elsewhere; there were "more black slave owners than white ones," etc.). Part Three concerns the "Who...?" That is, who wants us to take the blame, and why? The film's answer: The conspiracy of shame is primarily the product of the teachings of an unscrupulous radical: Saul Alinsky (a writer and political activist known as the founder of "community organizing"). His protegees? Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, among others.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

For those who are inclined to agree with D'Souza and his colleagues, America will be an example of documentary filmmaking at its most enlightening. For those who disagree, it will seem a shoddy diatribe. In any case, it's an argument masquerading as a movie. While some of the performances in the reenactments are excellent (Don Taylor as Lincoln is particularly good) and some visuals of the country show its awesome beauty, the majority of the film is overly dramatic (for example, the relentless pounding of a blacksmith's forge is intercut with lovely landscapes), unnecessarily violent (bloody battle scenes with multiple deaths), and filled with hypotheses that are thin at best, inaccurate and purposefully provocative at worst. Mostly, it attempts to justify America's behavior by pointing out similar behavior by other countries.

Paranoia is the film's most unsettling element. Particularly disturbing is D'Souza's handling of some of the interviewees (for instance, a spokeswoman for the Sioux tribe and a professor of African-American studies), who seem like they might disagree with him if they fully understood his purpose. They bring a wide variety of opinions, perspectives, and motives to the microphone, but -- after the interviews -- D'Souza manages to refute the evidence of the experts who disagree with his premise. In fact, he uses their own words, earnestness, and trust to bolster his own claims in opposition. Finally, having previously taken on Obama in 2016: Obama's America, D'Souza here focuses on Hillary Clinton. "Reenactments" of her college days show her to be in the thrall of Saul Alinsky's radicalism and secretly working to undermine the American way of life as she moves forward. Bottom line? The worth of this film is definitely in the eye of the beholder.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the use of historical reenactments to heighten a film's message. In dramatic movies "based on" or "inspired by" true stories, viewers have come to accept the fact that the filmmakers imagine what might happened in individual scenes. Is this true for documentaries, or should there be a different standard?

  • Discuss the various goals of filmmaking: to inform, to entertain, or to persuade. What is the primary purpose of America? How do you know? Why is it important to understand the filmmakers' purpose?

  • Do you think documentaries are required to be objective? Why or why not?

  • Did this movie show you or help you "imagine a world without America"? If not, why do you think that phrase/tagline was part of the film's marketing? 

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 4, 2014
DVD release date:October 28, 2014
Cast:Dinesh D'Souza, Don Taylor, Rett Terrell
Directors:John Sullivan, Dinesh D'Souza
Studio:D'Souza Entertainment
Genre:Documentary
Topics:History
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:some violent images

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byShadow21 November 13, 2014
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

Mildly violent

Really nothing bad, just a few mild battle scenes and a sort of semi-hanging(the man lives). Also, a brief but brutal beating scene
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written byShadow21 November 13, 2014
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

Mildly violent

Really nothing bad, just a few mild battle scenes and a sort of semi-hanging(the man lives). Also, a brief but brutal beating scene
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 14 years old Written byMalpacka99 July 20, 2014
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

Appreciation for America

I thought this movie was very rich in history. I learned about past events and the true meaning of America. I can't believe whoever wrote this review-editor?-would give it such a bad star rating! This was extremely informational and it was WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY better than just a 1! Now, I did think the ending was a bit ambiguous, but it was still an excellent movie. I am so privileged to be able to live in America, and this movie tells exactly why.
What other families should know
Great messages

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