By Trevor Sheffield
Death of a Nation (released August 3, 2018), the next film by documentary filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza (whose prior body of work includes such works as Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party and 2016: Obama’s America) is a film that’s divisive, almost intentionally so. People who disagree with it will leave the theater angry and insulted by the madness that D’Souza has been given millions of dollars to waste upon multiplex screens across the country. People who do agree with the film will be reaffirmed in their beliefs with nothing to really challenge them, and will perhaps be emboldened to act upon them further.
That said, what is the film about?
Death of a Nation follows D’Souza (acting as the quote unquote protagonist of the piece, as well as being the director, writer, and co-producer alongside his wife) as he takes a trip through history to prove how modern day Liberals and Democrats are both figuratively and literally the next form of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime, how Hitler’s views were actually progressive, and how the successor to President Abraham Lincoln’s position as a disruptive force for good in the White House is ultimately President Donald John Trump.
In short? It’s basically propaganda, and I will be treating it as such.
Springtime for Hitler and straw man arguments
It is virtually impossible to talk about this film in the context of a review without having to bring up the politics involved with and concerning Death of a Nation’s overall message and modus operandi, that of which I have already divulged. However, viewing the work and what it is trying to convey from an objective standpoint, it doesn’t change the fact that D’Souza’s conservative sensibilities are cranked up to eleven in this film, coming off as militantly extremist. In any other circumstance, the kind of “passion” D’Souza has for his subject could have lead to an intensely personal piece of cinema that (while pompous and fairly generally unaware) could change the world.
Unfortunately, Mr. D’Souza is far more interested in repeatedly bashing the audience over the head with a barrage of arguments that lack any real weight outside of his contrived context.
Case in point, is the idea that modern day Liberalism in America is the direct descendant of the Third Reich and that Hitler stands among the ranks of modern progressive politicians like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. D’Souza elaborates in great detail (through poorly-acted historical reenactments and heavily edited interviews with liberal figures) how Hitler was a progressive because he held progressive views towards things like the economy, and how he was okay with homosexual men being part of the Nazi party (so long as they “kept it in the closet” so to speak). He explains how fascism is inherently leftist because of the Democratic party’s prior support for racism and white supremacy, how Antifa are effectively the modern day equivalent of Benito Mussolini’s Black Shirts (a fascist militia group), and most absurdly how Nazi party’s manifesto doesn’t sound too far off from something that Sanders would write…aside from the whole “genocide” thing.
D’Souza talks about how President Donald Trump is the second coming of President Abraham Lincoln because he, like Lincoln, is both a Republican who is tearing down the status quo that has settled into the White House. Whereas the slavery that Lincoln encountered was one of physical bondage and white nationalism, D’Souza elaborates that the “modern” form of slavery comes from the “Black ghettos and Mexican barrios” — to slightly paraphrase his own words. He highlights this with footage of tent camps in Oakland, among other areas of economic squalor. Capping it off, he hints at who may truly be behind this, featuring front-lit footage of an actor standing in a suit and looking out of a window in the Oval Office. He is shrouded entirely in shadow and darkness, shot like a Bond villain, and coded in every single visual way to be Barack Obama.
Keep in mind that the only time he actually acknowledges a fault in his own position, he handwaves it off as a punchline in comparison to the opposition.
“It’s locker room talk, EVERYBODY does that!”
Winter for Poland and good taste
Despite the film prominently featuring the fact that one of its’ producers happens to be Gerald R. Molen, whose claim to fame happens to be producing a great number of films in the Steven Spielberg filmography (including Schindler’s List, paradoxically enough), this movie is cheap as the devil. Whilst it is made on a paltry budget of $6 million dollars American ($4 million less than the freaking Teen Titans Go! movie), actual portions of the film and some of the statistics it uses actually consist of footage and stats from D’Souza’s prior efforts, barely changed or altered so as to be unique from their original use. The rest of the budget is seemingly dedicated to at times lengthy historical reenactments that serve where footage of D’Souza plodding around Germany and literally standing in Hitler’s footsteps cannot.
Going further, the interviews that D’Souza features feel edited and played in a way where it seems like D’Souza is either being reaffirmed in his beliefs, being “enlightened” by how his theses hold up, or showing how he has the upper hand. This is likely due to most of his subjects being scholars or holders of beliefs opposite to his.
That is, with the exception of the practically climactic interview of one Richard Spencer. The so-called “face” of the Alt-Right movement and organizer of the infamous Charlottesville, Virginia “Unite the Right” rally, which lead to the death of an innocent woman.
Aside from the, shall we say “questionable” idea of giving the leader of what some would consider to be the face of a Neo-Nazi movement sweeping the nation a platform to express his views to impressionable moviegoers, this is the only interview where D’Souza ends seemingly even spooked by the beliefs of his subject…yet still cannot help but agree on a few points.
Regardless, the film also makes a mistake in line with the rest of D’Souza’s prior work: musical numbers. D’Souza stops the film dead in the final act for a gaudy clip show of Americana imagery, set to Dinesh’s wife singing “America the Beautiful” (or something along those lines). This runs for about four minutes, leading into an extended reenactment lead to imply that standing up to Liberals is standing up to LITERAL NAZIS and ends in somebody getting decapitated by guillotine. This leads to Dinesh D’Souza repeating his talking points which THEN leads into what I can describe as the world’s most stereotypical black gospel choir performing the Battle Hymm of the Republic as the lead singer hams it up and does an obnoxiously bad Mariah Carrey impression. In all genuine honesty, I wish I was making this up.
…Actually, no. I don’t.
I Cannot Tell a Lie, It Stinks.
I could keep going on about this film for ages, but the fact of the matter is that I have nothing positive to say about this film whatsoever. The music is there. The lighting is there. The PartyCity moustache they got for the Hitler actor is there. The only thing missing from Death of a Nation is an awareness for what the arguments it’s making could cause in the real world, let alone a single one of its’ core arguments that doesn’t sink like a boat made from Swiss cheese. Instead of actually using the resources it has to present ideas that are worthy of the cinematic treatment, it instead relies solely on ignoring any arguments against its’ political position, and asking “What about the Democrats?” “What about the Liberals?” “What about the Left?”
If I wanted to spend two hours dealing with nothing but misinformed arguments and blatant disregard for truth, sanity, and logic, I’d go to 4Chan. At least that’s free.
Featured image from Mesa County GOP
Death of a Nation
'Death of a Nation' is a documentary in the same way that InfoWars is a news program. Plagued by arguments and “insights” that lack context and at times, common sense, it refuses to actually acknowledge the faults of its’ position on any serious level and pompously presents conspiracy as fact and fear as reality. It is a masterclass in everything a documentary should not be, and arguably one of the worst, if not the worst film I have ever seen in my entire life. Regardless of one’s politics, this is time and money wasted on hate and vitriol meant to prey on the ignorant. Two thumbs down.
Trevor is a Telecommunications major who enjoys long walks on the beach, music from at least thirty years ago, and subjecting himself to critically panned media for kicks. He has been reviewing film since his sophomore year of high school, and intends to enter the industry after college.