Thursday, August 30, 2012

Culture Shock 08.30.12: '2016' more D'Souza's fantasy than Obama's America

"2016: Obama's America" is a bizarre movie, starting with the title.

It is only in the final minutes that co-director and tour guide, conservative author Dinesh D'Souza, bothers to lay out exactly what he thinks the country will look like in 2016 if President Barack Obama should win a second term. His forecast for Obama's America? Nearing broke and increasingly disarmed in a dangerous world.

It takes so long to get to what the title promises because D'Souza is busy outlining his Great Big Theory, which he takes whole cloth from his 2010 book "The Roots of Obama's Rage." In it D'Souza claims Obama is an anti-colonial zealot determined to bring down rich, capitalist, "colonial" powers like the United States while transferring their wealth to former colonies.

This theory, upon which D'Souza rests his entire case, has met with — to put it charitably — a mixed reaction. Andrew Ferguson's review in "The Weekly Standard," a conservative magazine, is one especially damning example.

D'Souza is engaging in armchair psychology. Drawing heavily from passages in Obama's 1995 memoir "Dreams from My Father," he argues Obama is trying to live up to an idealized vision of his radical Marxist father, whom he barely knew. D'Souza even enlists a psychologist, Paul Vitz of New York University, to help make the case.

D'Souza's long-distance diagnosis seems to be that Obama has a reverse Oedipus complex. Instead of wanting, subconsciously, to kill his distant and unloving father, he wants to keep alive the mythical father his mother told him about.

This is all fascinating stuff, and some of it might even be true, but D'Souza never brings any compelling evidence to the table.

There is, arguably, a good case to be made against both the president's economic policies — which some believe have prolonged the country's economic downturn by creating uncertainty and propping up failed businesses — and his foreign policy. But D'Souza is too enamored of his Great Big Theory to spend time with the relevant facts.

Early in the film, D'Souza shows footage of Occupy protesters disillusioned with Obama's performance in office, but D'Souza doesn't say why these protesters are disillusioned. Could it be Obama's health plan, which subsidizes the health insurance industry that helped write it? Could it be his escalation of the war in Afghanistan and launching of drone strikes throughout the Middle East? Could it be that military spending through 2021 is set to increase 18 percent even if the "draconian cuts" of sequestration take place?

Contrary to D'Souza, this doesn't look like the record of an anti-colonial extremist. It looks like the record of President George W. Bush.

But the oddities of "2016" don't end there. The first 15 minutes or so are more about D'Souza than Obama. And D'Souza begins by claiming he has some insight into Obama's mindset because of their shared colonial experience, never mind that Obama grew up mostly in the U.S. while D'Souza stayed in his native India until he came to the U.S. for college.

Even the stylistic choices D'Souza and co-director John Sullivan make are inexplicable: D'Souza conducts interviews by cellphone even though both parties are on camera. Some closeup shots are so extreme they're distracting. The shaky camerawork makes "The Blair Witch Project" look like a Stanley Kubrick film. And the subtitles used for interviewees with thick accents are so stylized they are nearly impossible to read.

I could go on. "2016: Obama's America" is a misguided film at almost every level.

It must be seen to be disbelieved.

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