By Joe Tash
A controversial, harshly critical documentary about Barack Obama — which asserts the President holds “Third Word, anti-American views” — has close ties to Fairbanks Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe.
As of mid-September, “2016: Obama’s America” was playing on more than 2,000 screens in theaters across the country, including many in San Diego County. It had raked in $26.2 million, the second-highest total ever for a political documentary, behind only “Fahrenheit 9/11” by Michael Moore, according to the film industry website Deadline.com.
Dinesh D’Souza, a well-known conservative writer and commentator who lives in Fairbanks Ranch with his wife and daughter, co-directed and co-wrote the documentary, which is based on his 2010 book, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage.” In an interview, D’Souza said 25 people contributed $100,000 apiece to raise the $2.5 million he needed to make the film and some of the investors are from Rancho Santa Fe.
“These are [people] from my Rolodex… they like my work and find my arguments interesting,” D’Souza said. “And they’re concerned about the impact of Obama on America’s future.”
The film uses excerpts from Obama’s own book, “Dreams From My Father,” to advance D’Souza’s theory that the President holds anti-colonial views derived from his father, a Kenyan economist, which drive him to seek to diminish America’s wealth and standing in the world.
“Obama would like to see a smaller, poorer America with a shrunken footprint in the world. He’s doing it in the name of global fairness,” said D’Souza.
D’Souza’s film has received wide-ranging reviews. Dave Berg of the Washington Times wrote: “Republicans often bemoan the fact that they don’t have Hollywood celebrities on their side, but they’ve been handed a gift. Mr. D’Souza is a legitimate rising star who doesn’t look the part. He’s perfect for anti-Hollywood conservatives. He’s able to explain clearly, in a way that hits home, why this election is really about two different worldviews.”
But the film has also drawn condemnation from Obama’s campaign and media critics, who question its factuality and fairness.
“The facts show that ‘2016: Obama’s America’ is nothing more than an insidious attempt to dishonestly smear the President by giving intellectual cover to the worst in subterranean conspiracy theories and false, partisan attacks,” said a response posted on the Obama campaign’s website.
The Los Angeles Times called the film “a badly disguised and overly long attack ad,” while Variety called it “a cavalcade of conspiracy theories, psycho-political conjectures and incendiary labeling.”
The film followed on the heels of a 2010 cover story in Forbes Magazine, which aired similar themes and arguments. Of that piece, a writer in the Columbia Journalism Review wrote, “This is the worst kind of smear journalism—a singularly disgusting work.”
D’Souza dismissed the critiques and insisted that his goal was to take advantage of interest in the upcoming presidential election to inform the public. The film’s tagline is, “Love Him, Hate Him, You Don’t Know Him.”
“I don’t think there’s a single fact in the film… that has been questioned in a way that has any validity,” said D’Souza. The piece in CJR regarding his Forbes article was “a shabby piece of analysis,” he said.
The film includes interviews with a friend of Obama’s father, his half brother, a psychologist and others. D’Souza narrates the film, which was shot at locations including Kenya, Indonesia (where Obama lived as a child) and Hawaii, where the President was born and attended school. Audio clips of Obama reading from his book are also used, as is a dramatized scene of Obama at his father’s grave in Kenya.
In the film, D’Souza notes a number of similarities between Obama and himself — for example, both were born in 1961 and both educated at Ivy League schools. But D’Souza theorizes that Obama is filled with rage transmitted by his father, whom he had almost no contact with, over the British colonization of Kenya.
D’Souza said he harbors no similar rage against the British for their subjugation of his native India — D’Souza was born in Mumbai, and emigrated to the United States at age 17, where he attended his last year of high school and then went to Dartmouth College.
“(Colonization) was bad for people who lived under it but has proven to be good to their descendents,” D’Souza said, contending he is “unquestionably” better off for the British presence in India because he speaks English, went to a Westernized school, and was exposed to the rule of law and Christianity. “Colonization was the transmission belt for Western values.”
After college, D’Souza worked for the Reagan Administration as a policy analyst, and has since written 12 books, including a biography of Ronald Reagan. He has also spoken widely on his conservative views, and in 2010 was named president of The King’s College, a Christian institution in New York City.
He now splits his time between New York and Fairbanks Ranch, where he is involved with his daughter’s education at The Bishop’s School and attends Horizon North County church.
Thrilled by the success of “2016: Obama’s America,” his first film, D’Souza said he is thinking about making a film about the search for God and the influence of Christianity in the world.
“I see the power of film as a genre, it appeals both on an intellectual and emotional level,” he said.
For more information on the film, visit 2016themovie.com