A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party advocates defeat of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza argues that the Democrats' main goal has always been to own the American people -- industry, banks, media, small business -- and that Clinton is but the most recent advocate of the "thievery" Democrats have perpetrated for more than a century. D'Souza identifies the Democrats with racism, slavery, corruption, misuse of power and funds, fascism, and more. Though the film includes some violent historical footage, most of the brutality is delivered in re-enacted scenes that show slaves being whipped, a congressman being beaten with a stick, KKK attacks, Civil War battles, a woman undergoing forcible sterilization, and lynching. Rape is the subject of several sequences; re-enacted scenes show white plantation masters (Democrats) sexually assaulting their slaves. Language is infrequent but includes "hell," and "son of a bitch"; some drinking and smoking is shown. 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.
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What's the story?
The basic premise of Dinesh D'Souza's HILLARY'S AMERICA: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY is that if Hillary Clinton is elected president in 2016, it will be the culmination of more than a century of her party's plot to "take everything from everyone." D'Souza goes into great detail about what he calls the Democrats' "thievery project." He begins by personalizing his own journey to "enlightenment" by re-creating moments from his 2014 trial for illegal campaign contributions (to which he pleaded guilty) and his subsequent eight-month prison term. He then examines historical documents and conducts interviews with Carol Swain, a professor of law and politics at Vanderbilt University; Jonah Goldberg, a writer for National Review magazine; and author Peter Schweitzer to reveal the Democrats' "secret history." From Andrew Jackson's well-documented racism and implementation of the "Trail of Tears" (in which Native Americans who weren't killed as a result of government policies were re-located to reservations) to Lyndon Johnson's "hidden" motives for pursuing civil rights legislation to Margaret Sanger's secret liaison with the Ku Klux Klan to help her establish Planned Parenthood, the featured Democrats are profiled as subversive, racist, power hungry, and dishonest. The film's final 45 minutes are devoted to the Clintons, portraying Bill as Hillary's longtime pawn ("a pitchman whom people liked"), recruited by his wife to help her implement her radical plans for an American takeover. As the actor portraying Hillary cackles over her duplicity, revels in her betrayal of American principles, and seeks ultimate power "to take her all the way to the White House," D'Souza presents his case and then asks viewers to vote against her.
Is it any good?
As with all of D'Souza's films, if you share his opinions, you'll likely find this documentary convincing; if you don't, you'll probably end up yelling at the screen. And either way, his approach to "documentary" filmmaking is troubling; he relies on unsupported charges, purported quotes, and "expert" testimony that don't meet fundamental standards of authenticity. It's certainly true that among the ranks of Democrats who've served our country since the party was founded, there were bigots, segregationists, and thieves. Jackson has already been "outed" by many sources. But the same can be said of Republicans.
Misrepresentations, facts skewed to fit an inflammatory agenda, and cruel caricatures that malign American public figures are D'Souza's stock in trade. It's particularly problematic when he uses President Barack Obama's own voice and words out of context to validate one of the film's many accusations. D'Souza's depiction of an evil plan in which the Democrats would seize all power is divided into four parts: "plan, pitch, take, and deny." That plot could just as easily be applied to Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party. In this case, the "take" would be as in "take license" and the "deny" would be to refuse to include any point of view other than D'Souza's own very narrow and paranoid one.
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 Hillary'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 the film's interviewees are objective? Why do you think the director didn't include any views in opposition to his own? Are documentaries required to be objective? Why or why not?
- In theaters: July 15, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: October 11, 2016
- Cast: Dinesh D'Souza, Alesia Gidget Taylor, Becky Turner, Howard Goldwaite
- Directors: Dinesh D'Souza, Bruce Schooley
- Studio: Quality Flix
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: History
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some violence, thematic elements and smoking
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