Daniel Glassman writes about film and music. He lives in Toronto.

USA: Far from the final word about the end of the Obama administration.

The Final Year

Greg Barker

USA, 2017, 89 min.

Sometimes with documentaries it is painfully obvious that the film that ends up in theatres is not the film the makers thought they were making. And The Final Year, Greg Barker’s new film about the last year of the Obama administration, is, for painfully obvious reasons, possibly the phenomenon’s epitome.

Greg Barker

Barker’s focus is on the foreign policy team of Secretary of State John Kerry, Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. He gets decent access to them, following the trio from Washington to missions abroad in Laos, Nigeria, Japan, Greenland and elsewhere. I don’t generally give a damn about films that have “humanizing” as their goal – I already know people are people – but I have to admit that a few moments had me genuinely moved. Power, often ridiculed by the left as an interventionist hawk, comes off downright decent in meetings with the mothers of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, scenes with her kids and a citizenship-granting ceremony for, among others, her maid, wherein Power breaks down in tears remembering her own immigration from Ireland. Rhodes is definitely a bit of a jerk, but a smart one; his utter speechlessness on the evening of November 8, 2016, speaks volumes (and volumes, and volumes…). And Kerry – it’s easy to forget, given the very visible slings and arrows suffered in a life lived in public, but he’s basically a hero; when he says, again and again, that he’s an optimist, that he will never give up on a situation if he thinks there’s any chance of a solution, you believe him.

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