*1/2 out of ****
Conservative documentarian Dinesh D’Souza follows his very successful anti-Obama doc, 2016: Obama’s America with the pretentious title, America. In this film, the proud immigrant shames Americans who feel ashamed of their country.
Early marketing for this film was a misleading gimmick, urging the question “What would the world be like if America never existed?” Shots from the beginning of the film, which included an alternate outcome of the revolutionary war followed by the disintegration of numerous present-day national monuments, were used in the trailer. Subtle, huh? However, the movie doesn’t follow through with this question, since it would probably have a thousand answers. George Bailey-ing America in the actual movie would have been a task of such imaginative conjecture far beyond the already simplistic views of D’Souza and his collaborator, John Sullivan.
The documentary focuses on communicating current conservative anxieties and I have to hand it to D’Souza for being a very persuasive voice. He’s a calm, well-mannered and seemingly rational commentator who appears to be listening to people like Noam Chomsky and several other rivals who hold understandable criticisms of our country’s legacy. D’Souza, with intelligent pacing and professionally shot (yet still generic looking) historical reenactments, responds to these criticisms by exonerating a history of slavery, land stealing, colonialism and inequality through arguments, which attempt to correct the claims of historian Howard Zinn. To say that during some parts, I felt persuaded to entertain some of D’Souza’s ideas should be a compliment to him.
Eventually, with immaturity, he continues his attack on the Obama administration while demonizing famed community organizer Saul Alinsky and his evil influence over Hillary Clinton. Like in his last film, D’Souza has a McCarthyism-level preoccupation with uncovering past notorious affiliates of those he wishes to smear.
He concludes that cynical perspectives of the USA are part of a strategy, influenced by the liberal radicals in charge, to undermine our country’s strength and destroy the American Dream. Not only does he stand by these bold statements, he uses transparently manipulative cinematic tactics that are in such shallow taste. Why do the current run of eccentrically patriotic artists have terrible taste in music? They'd prefer an electric guitar playing the Star Spangled Banner instead of the delightful works of John Philip Sousa or Aaron Copland.
The ultimate insult I took from this film was not in its stance that America’s faults have been corrected throughout the centuries, but that it doesn’t want to give credit to the leftist radicalism, which made these changes possible. As a citizen of this strong nation, I want to do what I can to preserve its ideals, but the notion that my reservations regarding American supremacy should be viewed as part of our national decline, is absurd. It is possible to be a good student who doesn’t enjoy a pep rally.