As the film title implies, Greg Barker’s documentary is an eye-opening unprecedented look during the final year (actually 30 days of the final year) of US foreign policy by following key members of outgoing US President Barack Obama’s administration.
If all this sounds too political, the film is. The question then is whether it is necessary to watch a film on American policy. American policy as a stand-alone entity might not have any interest to non-Americans or even Americans. But the U.S. being the most influential country in the world therefore would have a policy that would have ramifications all over the world. So, unless one wants to live like a man in a cave and not wish to know what is going outside, this film will not affect you. It is also good to see the real goings-on in the Obama Administration besides just hearing the points of view of the news.
It is one year before Trump came into the U.S. Presidency. During 2016, filmmaker Greg Barker (SERGIO, MANHUNT: THE STORY OF THE HUNT FOR BIN LADEN) gained access to key members of outgoing US President Barack Obama’s administration — Secretary of State John Kerry, Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, confidant and speech writer Ben Rhodes, and others — for an unprecedented look at the shaping of US foreign policy. While TV shows from The West Wing to Madam Secretary have invented dramas from this milieu, this documentary captures the real players so much in the moment.
The film begins inside the home of Power. The audience sees that these high profile state politicians are also ordinary people with kids and a family life.
The globe-spanning journey involves stops on multiple continents. Rhodes, who is described as sharing a “mind meld” with Obama, joins the President on historic visits to Ho Chi Minh City, Hiroshima, and Havana. Power seeks to put ordinary people at the heart of foreign policy in Nigeria and Cameroon. Kerry negotiates at the UN for a Syrian ceasefire and bears witness to global warming in Greenland. Every move they make stirs reactions from media, Congress, and the public.
Inevitable comparisons will made with the current Trump Administration. (The film ends with the unexpected Trump win as the new U.S. President.) Clearly, there are noticeable differences. One can likely see that there is more planning and cooperation with Obama. Also Obama is one to give good speeches. One in the film where he speaks to foreign young audience, Obama talks of stories that need be told and in this case, for America the importance of the Declaration of Independence in which all peoples are treated equal. This is to contrast to President Trump, who never gives a proper speech and talks in short phrases like: “No!”; “Wrong!” etc.
There are many best segments captured live on camera like President Obama’s Hiroshima and Power’s immigration speeches. But most important of all, the film reveals the true nature of the Presidential Aides, many of whom are inspirational in their duties.
I would like to see the equivalent of this film with the Trump Administration. That would be an eye-opener. But it would be highly unlikely seeing already that Trump already dislikes the media. Trump has already opted out of the climate change accord and the Iran Treaty, two policies Obama and his Administration have worked so hard to achieve.