Director Greg Baker's documentary, "The Final Year" gives you a moving and intimate look at an administration doing everything it can before the clock runs out. It's a window into the inner workings of the white house back when the adults run the place. And for those of who dislike Donald Trump's presidency with a passion, this documentary definitely will make you wish that President Barack Obama had still been the one leading the country. But this documentary also makes you feel sad, not because "O, I miss the Obama administration," but more about "where did it all go wrong that we now have Trump's administration"
What Greg Baker focuses on in this documentary is very simple, it focuses on president Barack Obama's foreign policy team, specifically U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers, deputy adviser Ben Rhodes and secretary of state John Kerry, during their last year in office, before they leave power after eight years.
First of all it's impressive how much access Greg Baker and his team were allowed to have, I bet other press or other filmmakers at the time were probably envious of the exclusivity that Greg's team got to enjoy, they even were allowed to document the staff's personal moments with their loved ones and family members. Clearly it's all done in a very good light, nothing that would appear like trouble in paradise, but if the goal was to show that these powerful influential people at the core of it are just humans like you and me with their own typical family situations despite their big jobs, then that's exactly what you'll get to see here in The Final Year.
Another thing that this documentary gives us a view of is an understanding of how complex and complicated these jobs are. To the point where you might watch this docu and start thinking, man they are spreading themselves way too thin. Secretary of State John Kerry has to juggle between Syria issues and Iran issues, and then Samantha Power has to travel around the world to even the most remote places and then somehow find time to give a speech at a U.S. citizenship event, the same goes with Ben Rhodes who's consistently busy trying to come up with the right speeches, the right wording for president Obama. Watching them do what they do, I wonder how much red bull or caffeine intake do they have on a daily basis to keep themselves on because they're juggling so much. You mights say, but Rama, that is their job description but an argument can also be made that this is the burden that comes with the whole world looking to us for leadership. Every country is is depending on us to broker a deal or to rescue them, so much so that you wonder if it all might backfire if everything has to always depend on the United States being the deciding factor. So keep in mind that this documentary is mostly about Obama's foreign policies, not his domestic ones. This is a look at Obama not as the commander in chief necessarily but more as the leader of the free world and the burdens that come with that.
Which leads me to my last point,,.. because this documentary shows us Obama administration's final year, hence the title, the documentary also shows the nervousness that the staff, specifically Ben Rhodes was feeling as it was nearing the election, he really wanted Hilllary to win and he told himself that but you can tell, he was also worried at the prospect of Trump winning instead. So when that did happen, it hit them like a brick wall because their expectations for Hillary Clinton's victory was so high, that when otherwise was the result, their disappointment is tremendous. It's like when you get your hopes up, super excited because you're super confident that your team would win but then they lose, because you were in such a high, the disappointment is devastating for you. That's what happened here.
And so, while this docu shows us how diligent the words of Ben Rhodes, Samantha Power and John Kerry are, the facts on the ground remains and that is the Democratic party lost about 1,000 seats under Obama, and the Rust Belt electoral voters even those who previously voted for Obama, ended up voting for Trump instead of Hillary. So perhaps either the Obama administration was too focused on their policies, as this documentary shows, or they were stuck in their bubble so much so that they were not aware of the suffering and the struggles of middle America. Which is why I said earlier that this documentary is somewhat saddening because here you have a bunch of great people doing great work, like the Iran deal and others but the voters at home would rather roll the dice and gamble on a fake populist. So that should say something about the Obama administration. You can argue, but Rama you can only do so much in 8 years, you can't please everybody,.. be that as it may, just like actions have consequences, inaction or lack of action has its consequences too. Ben Rhodes says in this documentary after Trump just won, in order to keep himself from feeling hopeless, he said that the pendulum will come back, pendulums swing this way and comes back to center again. That's nice and all but it's also an irresponsible comment, because while the pendulum swings this direction, it's us the regular folks who have to suffer through all the disastrous policies that Trump's administration applies, some of the damages may be irreparable. The pendulum illustration is only comforting for those who don't live paycheck to paycheck and are economically fine.
So to conclude, if you're wondering if The Final Year has some sort of an agenda, or perhaps director Greg Baker just point and shoot the camera and whatever happens happens, The Final Year is both an excellent showcase of wisdom, compassionate but firm leadership but also a cautionary tale that if you're taking on too much, some things may get neglected. What can you accomplish when you're literally racing against the clock, when your decisions affect other people's lives? If there's anything that can be taken away from this is that there should be a balancing act on the part of any administration, a positive, healthy, and prosperous balancing act.
-- Rama's Screen --
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