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America: Imagine the World Without Her (2014)

| July 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Dinesh D’Souza’s new documentary America: Imagine the World Without Her asks an extraordinary question: What would the world be like if America never existed? The opening scenes of the movie feature an alternate history scenario with George Washington at the Battle of Brandywine being shot off the back of his horse by a sniper. The battle is won by the British, and Washington’s body is dumped in a shallow grave. That devastating moment is followed by images of national moments like Mount Rushmore, The Lincoln Memorial, The Statue of Liberty and The Marine Corps War Memorial fading out of existence.

It is a heavy moment and a loaded question, and the most surprising thing is that D’Souza doesn’t really answer it. Actually, what is promised in the film’s title is an issue that is asked but quickly abandoned. Truthfully, America: Imagine the World Without Her should really be called “Should America Be Ashamed of Itself?” That’s actually a more potent question.

You know D’Souza. He’s political commentator and author, an Indian-born immigrant who came to this country as an exchanged student, attended Dartmouth College, became a citizen in 1991 and served as a policy adviser to President Reagan. In the past few decades he has become an author and then two years ago made a name for himself with the anti-Obama documentary 2016: Obama’s America, a well-intentioned film that tried to examine the unknown history of the 43rd man to occupy the American presidency. It was so successful that it became the second highest grossing political documentary of all time, right behind Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.

His film was effective because at least you felt that D’Souza had done his homework. It had a clear agenda: don’t give Obama a second term. The new film, America: Imagine the World Without Her, doesn’t have such a clear purpose and often seems to suffer from an identity crisis. After the “what if” scenario is dropped, he slips quickly into the question of America’s legacy of shame, then moves rapidly into a bizarre third act that examines what exactly Barak and Hilary have tried to do to America.

The shame question makes up the bulk of the film. D’Souza calls upon several indictments made against America by the likes of Howard Zinn, Ward Churchill, Noam Cholmsky and Michael Moore who complain about America’s history and capitalism (despite the fact that they all seemed to have profited from it). He answers specific charges, indictments against the United States going all the way back to Christopher Columbus about whether or not it was guilty of murdering and enslaving Native Americans, Mexicans and African-Americans and using their land and labor to build this country. Also, he answers whether or not America is the instigator of its own conflicts like Korea and Vietnam and Afghanistan in order to assert dominance in the world. Specifically, D’Souza attacks the work of the late Howard Zinn, whose 1980 book “The People’s History of America” is praised by some by purporting to tell the “real truth” about America’s history. D’Souza sees it as a dangerous revisionist patchwork that leaves out specific information vital to our understanding of America, a convenient revision that Zinn and others have tried to rewrite in an effort to tear down America’s great legacy.

Naturally, given D’Souza’s conservative vantage point, where you stand with these issues depends greatly on where you stand politically. The film very much feels like preaching to the choir. D’Souza isn’t a rabble-rouser in his personal presentation (his voice is even and calm), but he does beat the drum in the information on display. He answers each of the charges one by one in a straight-forward way.

What is troubling is the film’s third act which breaks away from D’Souza’s “indictment” narrative and slips into a long conspiratorial essay in which he lays blame for America’s legacy of shame on political organizer Saul Alinsky, whose influence is said to have extended down to Hilary Clinton (who fell under his influence as a young college student) and Barak Obama. It’s a long narrative that breaks away from the film’s initial purpose so that you feel as if you’re suddenly watching a different movie. D’Souza is no fan of the Obama administration, that was clear in 2016, but here it’s hard to nail down exactly what he’s trying to say at the end of this film. He asks many questions, answers some he nails down, and others are left hanging.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2014) View IMDB Filed in: Documentary