In the lead up to the U.S. elections, two documentaries, one
conservative the other liberal, are trying to discredit the presidential
candidate of the opposite camp. Dinesh D'Souza's Obama's America 2016
criticizes President Obama, a Democrat, as un-American, while the
liberal mockumentary Janeane From Des Moines pokes fun at the
Republicans on issues such as health care, gay marriage and the economy.
These films attempt to sway voters. But can they?
Dinesh D'Souza's film Obama's America 2016 contends that the U.S.
president has a hidden agenda on religion, war and the economy. Since
its premiere, the documentary has raked in over $30 million, making it
among the highest grossing political documentaries of all time.
Nina Seavey, director of the Documentary Center at George Washington
University, says films like that aim to galvanize voters of the same
"You have to find a way to their heart so that they don't maybe give you
$25, but they go and raise more money," she said. "They go out and they
knock on doors and they go out and do voter registration and they go out
and they get their passion on for whatever sort of political purpose, in
this case to defeat Barack Obama."
The liberal mockumentary Janeane From Des Moines appeals to Democrats by
poking fun at Republican candidates. It showcases Janeane, played by
actress Jane Edith Wilson, as a Republican woman from Iowa attending
real Republican rallies.
Janeane fiercely opposes Obama's health care plan until she is out of a
job, loses her health insurance and finds out she has breast cancer.
Films like these are nothing new. Months before the 2004 election,
Michael Moore released his documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 targeting
President George W. Bush. The film earned nearly $120 million at the box
"The biggest documentary ever! Did it defeat George Bush? No," says
Seavey. She points out also that most serious documentaries do not reach
a mass audience because of their limited release.
of them is Alex Gibney's Oscar winning film Taxi to the Dark Side about
the abusive interrogations of terror subjects during the administration
of President George W. Bush.
Films like this might have an impact but eventually, says Seavey, they
are forgotten. She cites Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth about global
“We all thought that it was going to be somehow a revolution of
understanding that we have to do something about the heating up of our
planet," said Seavey. But, the film concludes: "Well, we still have
global warming, and we still show no resolve to making things slow
Still, Seavey hopes that small films with a constructive message will
make an impression on the American electorate as they enter households
through cable and online streaming.