The Final Year – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Greg Barker
Stars: John Kerry, Barack Obama, Samantha Power
Barker’s previous work includes the Inside Story of the Hunt for Bin Laden (2012) which includes interviews with CIA agents after the event. Here he undertakes to record as it happened the inner workings of the Obama White House during its last twelve months in office. The principal players are: Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Ben Rhodes,the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, John Kerry the Secretary of State and of course Barack Obama himself.
There are scenes of staffing meetings about a vast array of topics, constant glimpses of individuals arriving on gleaming aircraft in remote spots of the globe, individuals in their cramped offices making telephone calls, talking to their colleagues and in the case of Samantha Power moments when she is also a mother of two young children. It is a vast kaleidoscope of images. The issues which predominate are climate change and on the more specifically local for instance the kidnapping of the schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Nigeria. There is much else in between. However, the then current Presidential election campaign barely gets a mention and in so far as it does none of the players gives any indication that they imagined that Donald J. Trump could win it even up to 9th November 2016.
One suspects that Barker thought in making the film that it would be a valedictory wave by the Obama administration to an incoming Hillary Clinton one. To watch it now when that was not the outcome one is reminded of the phrase “the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.” Because of the phenomenon of Trump, the views of John Kerry, Samantha Power and Ben Rhodes now seem like those of innocents abroad. However, it is worth remembering Obama’s zig-zag comment on 9th November 2016 “We zig and zag and sometimes we move in ways that some people think is forward and others think is moving back, and that’s OK.” This documentary reminds viewers that we are now involved in a bizarre and unpredictable period of history from the relatively calm waters before. This film has taken on a new spin, probably not the intention of the film maker when it was first conceived. It is worth seeing it for the importance of the values, with their flaws, that the Obama administration represented and notwithstanding the election of Trump still have a relevance.