Are progressive documentary filmmakers finished with giving Barack Obama a free pass?
For Slate.com, I wrote about two docs I saw at Sundance, not so coincidentally, on the same day as the President's second inaugural celebration: Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley's "Dirty Wars" and Alex Gibney's "We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks." Both films take a hard, unforgiving look at the President and his policies. While it's no surprise to find Obama-bashing nonfiction these days—see last year's rightwing hit "2016: Obama's America"--what is new to see filmmakers taking Obama to task from the left.
Here's an excerpt from Slate.com:
"In one scene, Scahill speaks, in hushed somber narration, about what goes on "in the shadows"—and the film cuts to an ominous low-angle black-and-white portrait of President Obama, making him out to be some kind of arch-villain. Indeed, much of the film portrays Obama's international security efforts as nothing less than barbaric, leading to the murders of innocent women and children in Afghanistan and Yemen, the arming of immoral Somali warlords and the perpetuation of global terror, rather than its cessation."
"By comparison, Gibney's jibes against Obama are far less barbed, but the film includes a few stinging attacks against the country's executive branch. Most notably, Gibney includes a famous clip from a White House news conference, in which ABC News' Jake Tapper presses Obama about the treatment of alleged Wikileaks collaborator Bradley Manning. The film makes powerfully evident that Manning was, in fact, unfairly abused, stripped and held in solitary confinement, which makes Obama's response seem all the more callous and out-of-touch."