Documentary prompts painful comparisons with today

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Final Year
RPL Theatre

Jan. 19–21

Except for those living in denial (and about a third of Americans seem to be), the Donald J. Trump presidency is an embarrassment of colossal proportions. Corruption and incompetence are rampant, and Trump himself is palpably unprepared for the demands of the job.

This is hardly news, but it’s the first thought that comes to mind while watching The Final Year, a fly-on-the-wall documentary that chronicles the last days of the Obama administration. The film doesn’t focus on the former President (although he is featured prominently), but his inner circle, particularly Secretary of State John Kerry, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.

Of the vast number of angles available, director Greg Barker (Manhunt: The Inside Story of the Hunt for Bin Laden) chooses foreign policy to anchor the movie. In spite of successes such as reestablishing relations with Cuba, the Iran nuclear deal and Paris Accord, Syria looms large. With numerous actors (Assad, Putin, the Islamic State, Syrian and Kurdish rebels), each with their own agenda that made a clean solution impossible, it was a source of  division in Obama’s cabinet.

It’s clear Barker is on the same side as his subjects, but it’s undeniable they are operating with the best intentions. We witness intelligent people doing their best to avoid armed conflict and sometimes failing. The tragedy of the film lies in Trump and his Republican cronies’ efforts to reverse every achievement depicted here. Take that into consideration, and you have a horror movie.