America: Imagine the World without Her

An interesting concept, shallowly executed.
Movie Review #969


Dinesh D’Souza has been a figure of controversy (in America, at least) since 2012, when he released his documentary “2016: Obama’s America”, just a few months ahead of the President’s reelection. It became the second-highest grossing documentary of all-time, behind Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11”, from the opposite end of the political spectrum, but founded on the goals: to root the incumbent president out of a reelection.

“2016” was one of few documentaries I actually saw at the theater. Once I saw it, I was quick to back it. D’Souza was under fire from film critics who saw the film as conservative propaganda. Be that as it may, it was an insightful documentary, and D’Souza most certainly deserves points for that. D’Souza had outlined “2016” based on three major predictions about the future of America under the Obama administration, and shockingly, all three have started to run their course since President Obama’s reelection.

D’Souza’s sophomore film “America: Imagine the World without Her”, initially, asks us to do just that, but it’s a question we don’t get much of an answer to by the end of the film. It’s not nearly as insightful as D’Souza’s first work, if the two warrant any comparison. Yes, initially, the film seems to pose the question in its title, but it becomes clear soon enough that the question is virtually irrelevant.

If there’s any question that “America” does answer, it’s “Mr. D’Souza, is America an evil nation?” This would make for an interesting film, if only Mr. D’Souza hadn’t arrived at a more specific proposition: “Mr. D’Souza, could you please go through a laundry list of all the evils America has been accused of?” It’s important that we note that these accusations are coming from the American people, not from abroad. D’Souza outlines these evils in the very beginning of his film. First, he’ll cover America’s supposed thievery of Mexican and Native territories. Then, he’ll cover America’s enslavement of Africans. Then he’ll cover America’s foreign policy. Then, he’ll cover the capitalist system. Is it just me, or do some of these seem quite a bit more evil than others? I’m pretty sure slaveowners were a whole heck of a lot more oppressive than capitalists.

When D’Souza first introduces these evils (how many more uses of that word till I wear it out?), he states that these are sentiments of the American people. Then he name-drops a book called A People’s History of the United States, authored by a man named Howard Zinn. Then he mentions it again. And again. And again, and again, and again. He mentions the damn book so much that it seems like he isn’t rebutting the claims of the American people who think that America is an evil nation. He’s just rebutting the claims of Howard Zinn.

D’Souza’s documentary isn’t conceptually uninteresting. In execution, however, it is, because it’s just way too shallow. I won’t even bother with D’Souza’s poorly scripted reenactment scenes, which were intended to highlight time periods and events of which we have no actual footage. Take that away and you still have a movie that I could stand in and barely get my shins wet.