Directed by: Dinesh D’Souza and Bruce Schooley
Premise: An exposé about the history of the Democratic Party. Author and ex-con Dinesh D’Souza outlines the links between the party and white supremacy from slavery to the Jim Crow era and connects the candidacy of Hillary Clinton to this history of fraud and corruption.
What Works: Hillary’s America is the latest entry in an ongoing series of documentaries in which Dinesh D’Souza presents himself as an investigator uncovering a left-wing conspiracy to undermine American principles. These movies are made for viewers who get their information about the world from Fox News and Alex Jones and Hillary’s America gives that audience what it wants, confirming their suspicion that America is under attack from subversive leftwing elements. To its credit, Hillary’s America is a more polished production than either 2016: Obama’s America or America: Imagine the World Without Her. Its production values are occasionally superior to its predecessors and the picture contains a handful of striking visuals, namely a surrealistic reenactment of President Woodrow Wilson (William Arthur Jenkins) screening the racist historical epic The Birth of a Nation in which a Klansman bursts out of the screen and onto the White House lawn.
What Doesn’t: Although Hillary’s America is better than Dinesh D’Souza’s previous efforts, this movie is still artistically amateurish. Hillary’s America includes a lot of historical reenactments and they all look like a cheap educational video instead of a feature documentary. The acting is unconvincing and the sets and costumes have the production values of a high school play. The movie is also absurdly overdramatic to the point that it nearly plays as a parody. The music is obtuse with dramatic stingers and Hillary’s America concludes with not one, not two, but three over-the-top patriotic musical performances. The moviemakers go out of the way to establish their patriotic bona fides to make the viewer accept the absurd premise of the movie: that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, in D’Souza’s words, “plan to steal America.” But the patriotic overkill also serves D’Souza’s ongoing project of rehabilitating his public image following his conviction for violating campaign finance laws. As in his 2014 movie, D’Souza casts himself as a political prisoner. The movie begins with D’Souza playing chess with a murderous gang member in a prison rec-room claiming that he was imprisoned because his movies challenged the Obama administration. This is all dramatic reenactment, although that’s never disclosed on screen. In truth, D’Souza never saw the inside of a prison, only serving eight months in a halfway house. The central argument of Hillary’s America isn’t really about the presidential candidate but about the history of the Democratic Party. The film makes the case that the Democratic Party is at the root of American racism, having masterminded slavery and Jim Crow and even the assassination of President Lincoln, and D’Souza depicts the party as a lawless advocate of eugenics and fascism. As the movie has it, birth control and abortion are a Democratic plot to eradicate the African American community. The second half of Hillary’s America links Clinton to this history, suggesting that she is the coup de grace of the Democratic Party’s long term plan to destroy the American Dream. This argument is distinguished by two pernicious elements. The first is the way it mixes facts with half-truths and oversimplifications, leading the audience to distorted conclusions. It is a fact that the Democratic Party represented slave owners during the Civil War and were the political party of Jim Crow. It’s also true that Hillary Clinton’s political career has had more than its share of scandals, outrages, and blemishes. But Hillary’s America makes gross generalizations, skips mindlessly through history to draw connections that are tenuous or nonexistent, and reiterates the most hysterical (and debunked) Clinton conspiracy theories while simplifying racism and corruption to a matter of partisanship. And that leads to the second insidious aspect of Hillary’s America: the way this film reinforces political tribalism. D’Souza confuses party allegiance with ethical integrity. The movie does not rationally critique liberal ideas nor does it make a stand for conservative principles. This is only about joining the correct party. According to D’Souza, Democrats are evil people and anyone who calls him or herself a Democrat is un-American. This isn’t constructive. It is stupid and poisonous to the culture.
Bottom Line: There is a serious documentary to be made about the failures of Hillary Clinton and the complicated history of the Democratic Party but Hillary’s America is not it. This is another clumsy attempt at political relevance by a pseudo-intellectual who is not the least bit interested in truth or democracy but only in shoring up his brand for his next exercise in cinematic and political hackery.
Episode: #605 (July 31, 2016)