|Posted on August 30, 2012 at 1:40 AM|
The Wrong Political Films...
I really hate to do this. I do.
You see, I don't want to be overly political on this blog. I just don't want to waste my digital breath on it most times and if I'm going to get carpel-tunnel syndrome, I'd rather do it over things I love to write about. Plus, let's face it, most political "discussions" turn into arguments: usually the liberal side being overly snarky and sarcastic and the conservative side overly angry, spiteful and attacking. Talk about a perfect storm of bullshit.
Yet, there is this odd little scenario I stumbled into Friday night after watching an episode of Doctor Who. Apparently, there's a film out there titled 2016: Obama's America. It's directed and written by a man I never heard of named Dinesh D'Souza based on, apparently, his own book that covers the same material. The point of the film is to do two things: Show how America is going to be like in 2016 if Obama is re-elected (not surprising, the film paints it as a bleak future where I assume we all have to eat our babies) and the other is to show how Obama is anti-American. Yes, a man who's worked for public office in the US pretty much his whole life is shown to be anti-American because he lived in Kenya. No, it's not a birther debate, you might think it falls to that, but it goes to say that because he traveled and didn't spend his entire life in America, that he has an anti-American agenda as a result.
Then there's a lot of policy stuff, how everything he's every touched is a failure, how gas is expensive and all his fault...you know the drill. Turn on the television or NPR for five minutes and you'll hear the rhetoric.
So, let me direct you to this, something a bit more up my film-loving alley: an article on Deadline Hollywood, a long-running industry blog headed by Nikki Finke who's been doing this for...well let's just say a very, very long time. Everyone in the business reads this blog, I've never met a single person who hasn't.
Yeah, as of this writing...that's a whopping 450 comments on this article. In fact, I saw it balloon to over twice that last weekend, and it's back down to 500 or so after a moderator went through and deleted a few rather
Now notice many of those comments. The first thing you'll see is that nearly all of them are pro-film. Like MAJORLY pro-film. The next thing you'll notice is that much of the phrasing is the same on most of those posts. The third thing you'll notice is that many of those posts are put up nearly every single minute.
Every single minute. Many nearly identical. All pro-support.
Something just seemed odd to me there.
The first being those three major points I mentioned, but the next being the fact that this is Deadline Hollywood. Deadline can get a lot of comments...but not 400+ of them. Not all saying the same thing. Not all being posted by people that I've never seen on that website before. Ever.
Now, I could spend some time and go over the many things that are just flat out wrong in so many of these posts, but that would be pointless. But I can address things...from a film perspective.
1) Many posts bring up Michael Moore. Apparently this film is an antithesis of a Michael Moore documentary (and I use that term loosely for Moore's films as well) for many of the commenters (or the one that keeps posting). The problem with that is that none of Moore's documentaries were funded by a "Bush's America Foundation" to create an anti-Bush piece of film.
What I mean is that the studio/funding of the film comes from a corporation named "Obama's America Foundation" - obviously a paper company. So who is actually providing funding for the film? Moore's films were developed and produced by him with support from documentary film producers that have a history of documentary film production, often being nominated for Oscars in the process.
Note...not "distributed" as that would be Rocky Mountain Pictures, a legitimate, though often conservative-minded, film distribution company out of Utah that I have no problems with. They release conservative films. Nothing wrong with that at all in the same way the Weinstein Company leans more left in their documentaries they pick up to release.
But who put up the money for it? You see, I can click on any documentary on IMDBpro and it gives you a list of every company that helped produce it...except this one. The "production company" is strangely absent. Even the last film distributed by Rocky Mountain Pics lists the production company...who paid for this one?
On top of that, Fahrenheit 9/11 wasn't made to be an anti-Bush film. Let me rephrase...it was an anti-Bush film, but it was more about the Iraq situation and Bush fell in to the whole thing due to the fact he was the President at the time. The name of the film wasn't Bush's 2004 and focused entirely on him and how his agenda is destroying the country. There's a stark difference between both movies. Plus, why do you want to say "Well...Michael Moore did Fahrenheit 9/11 so this makes this movie right" anyways? Fahrenheit 9/11 wasn't all that great, by far Moore's weakest film when put up against the likes of Bowling for Columbine and Sicko (again, two films about issues, gun control and health care, not about a man).
2) This one I love: they're using Obama's own words and quotes...this is 100% factual! How is it spinning anything!
Ok, first off, any political documentary is spinning something. Trust me. Those Moore films...yeah, big spins. They spin to fit the agenda and the opinion of the filmmaker, you just have to hope there are actual documents providing facts and not hearsay (something Moore, too, wasn't always the best at doing either). It's very, very easy to take someone's own words and make them out to be something in whatever light you want to cast it in. To me, someone saying this tells me they know jack about filmmaking...or never heard of a film called Triumph of the Will that made the Nazis look pretty damn amazing.
3) Many use the film as "proof" to...something. I don't know what, to be honest, but whenever that one rare comment came up noting that the film is just on an agenda, the pro-2016 comments jumped and say "you're wrong, it's 100% the truth" or "it proves everything we've suspected...you haven't proved anything wrong with it." The film has become the go-to defense for any criticism because you can't bring up anything without bringing up the film, but you can't criticize the film because it's apparently perfect.
Speaking of that...having an agenda is fine. But don't tell me this thing is full of facts and is 100% infallible. See what they managed to do? The film affirms and regurgitates what they already presume, but you can't point out the flaws as a critic without being labeled a "liberal" and "biased." It's a film you can criticize, the the people that should most hear that criticism won't because the film was marketed in a way with that lovely "us versus them" mentality that plagues politics, so that audience made up their mind to love that movie long before they even saw it.
4) It's fear-mongering. I don't need to see the film to know this, because any movie that names itself 2016 with the purpose of showing how "bad" things are going to be is fear-mongering, plain and simple. This isn't a documentary about Obama's past or an insight into the man or his policies...it's an opinionated assumption of what one person thinks it's going to be and how he can, somehow, tell the future. Not through the facts, but how writer/director D'Souza sees the facts himself. D'Souza then expresses his "take" by showing what he fears is going to happen. Those that agree with him won't see it as fear-mongering, but validation in their beliefs. As pretty much an independent, though I fall left more than right, I just see shoddy filmmaking and political manipulation.
I read through so many of the comments, I couldn't finish. I had to look into this reasoning.
Something Smells Fishy
Is it just me...or are a lot those comments across those websites are nearly identical to the ones on the Deadline article? As though it's from some template somewhere. Again...something was up. I needed to do more digging. I needed to dig beyong democrats lambasting it as an anti-Obama film and republicans saying it somehow "proves" something. It's all knee-jerk.
So, back to my original concern...who made the movie? Not the director or producer...who put up the money? I began some investigation. It all goes back to the funding question.
Let's look at the producers. Those are at least listed. Maybe we can trace the funding through them.
The first is Ann Balog. Ann has no other credits to her name nor a company she's affiliated with. Nothing in the industry databases, nothing even through Google. Other than listing that she is a producer on it.
The second is Oscar-winning producer Gerald R. Molen. Most of his credits are associated with Steven Spielberg films, though he hasn't done much of anything since 2002's Minority Report. Still, he's a name. He's well known. And, unlike Balog, has been far more open about the movie:
It's odd, unlike the rather large mystery surrounding my look into who funded this movie, or even the people supporting it, Molen sounds like a very knowledgeable guy that wears his views on his sleeve. Most importantly, though, is how transparent he is. He makes no qualms that the entire point of the film is to support Romney, so why do so many of these comments not share that transparency? Respect to Molen here, he knows exactly what this is and doesn't try to hide it and sell it as some "objective" film about Barack Obama.
Back on point...after some research, it turns out it's funded by the exact people you think will fund it: Conservative right-wing wealthy businessmen and corporations looking out for their self-interest. D'Souza himself is quoted that it " was bankrolled by a couple of dozen wealthy conservatives, the most prominent being TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts," in an interview where he was flat-out asked who funded it.
Wait, you mean Joe Ricketts, the same billionaire that was caught prepping a smear campaign entitled "Defeat Barak Hussein Obama" and under pressure backed out (even though he, by then, had already invested in actually making it happen)? You mean he might be looking to find alternate outlets for political assertions? What? No!? Impossibru! Wait...is it the same billionaire Joe Ricketts that championed hard for D'Souza's controversial book in the first place? What? Surely not!
But...but this movie is 100% factual accurate documentary stuffs! It can't have a political agenda! Right? Right?
Filmmaking Backed by Agendas is Bad...Campaigning That It's Okay and "Honest" Is Worse...And Believing That Rhetoric Inexcusable
You know what all these comments really do for me? Not just the over-abundance of pro, obviously organized campaigning comments for the film, but the negative ones too...it's how it reflects America as a whole. There's no discussion here. There's no understanding or trying to figure things out. It's just people blurting statements. Extreme statements. (Extremism on the internet being something I looked at recently on this little blog of mine). Either someone is God or they're Hitler...there's no area in between it seems.
Then you have things like those comments, and where everything is just awash and everyone is trying to make things appear better/worse than they actually are...but in reality it's billionaires pulling the strings, then they tell you they aren't, and people believe them for some reason.
At the end of the day, Obama and Romney are just men. People. Fallible. Some things they do you can agree with...other things they do you may not agree with. There's no absolute one way or the other, and in both cases I don't think either person is hell-bent on "destroying America." At the heart, I think they want to do the best they can, it's just that you may disagree with the path they want to go. At the end of the day, I'd like to have a drink with both of them. Discuss things. Reflect on things. I don't sense some sort of undercurrent of anger or hatred or even agendas in either, even if I disagree with certain things they've done or haven't done.
But man...all the rage and venom out there by other political leaders and especially the public.... It's no wonder I've shunned discussing politics on this blog. This is just supposed to be about film and games, but with if there's a film that is this politically incendiary? Well, as a film fan I can't just pretend it doesn't exist. But as a film, that extremism comes through. It obviously has an agenda, but becaues you can only be for/against apparently, you have one group praising the hell out of it and campaigning again as though it's Chic-fil-A appreciation day and another group just as angry and probably not looking at the film outside of their own political views. In fact, a lot of them probably haven't or won't even see it...just the mere thought it exists angers them.
Honestly, it kind of angers me too. No, not that someone has made an "Anti-Obama" documentary. That's fine, people can do and make whatever they please. I don't like the turmoil surrounding it and I don't like the interviews I've read from D’Souza that has that sense of elitist infallibility that Glen Beck trumpeted on his show for years - a rhetoric not of political discussion, but of political statements without considering a conversation on the matter. A rhetoric focused less on issues, and more a fear and "what if" series of scenarios that are plucked out of thin air and then reasons made up to support it. You know, kind of like someone saying something about rape because he heard it "from doctors." He points fingers, blames the "left" for 9/11 and that there's a "liberal conspiracy" to destroy his adopted country. He's well spoken, quite intelligent actually, but he's also absolute and unmoving - a trend that reflects politics.
Everybody hates the other side, and most of them have no idea why. Films like Obama's America 2016 aren't englightning people as to why...it's making misleading assertions as to why.
So, before I go off the deep in into political rhetoric, I'll just end it here: this actually frightens me. The large en-mass people who hate something yet aren't entire sure why but are organized enough to campaign thousands of comments on anything related to it, organize groups to see the film and load up buses to go to the theater and nobody has a clue to the real reasons as to why. They just kind of loftily follow along because they're unhappy about something and being against whatever they are told is causing that unhappiness is the only direction they know.
Political films are purely made for that. No...not films about politics...films made with a political agenda. They serve no purpose other than to give those without that direction an outlet to vent and to just validate their fuzzy assumptions on things. And there's no point in pointing this out them because they already are brainwashed with the "us versus them" mentality and will just say you're full of lies.
I know this because I just read through thousands of comments stating exactly that. As a fan of filmmaking, and a fan of just being nice to folks, I find this rather shady, underhanded "documentary" worse than just about anything made. Sure, it might be well made...but the entire point of it...and the brainwashing of people convinced it's so right shows blind following, over-zealous assertions and flat-out ignorance of what's really going on with films like this. There's a difference between films about politics and films with political agendas...and most of the people buying the tickets can't tell the difference.