During the last year of his presidency, it was business as usual for Barack Obama and his staff. Documentary filmmaker Greg Barker concentrates on the most powerful man in the world’s foreign policy team – Secretary of State John Kerry, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes and National Security Advisor Susan Rice – as they manage American foreign policy during “The Final Year.”
Love him or hate him, President Barack Obama left a legacy of hope at the end of his tenure in the White House. Unfortunately, the current inhabitant of the Oval Office is systematically dismantling that legacy for some unfathomable reason. But, the filmmakers, during their year long fly-on-the-wall look into the last year of Obama’s administration did not know or expect the result of the 2016 presidential election.
I was reluctant to watch “The Final Year” because, after the past year of political disaster and subterfuge, I simply did not want to sit down and cry. I, like many people the morning of 9 November 2016, made a wish that we could keep President Obama for four more years. (Of course, the XXII Amendment of the Constitution prohibits that from happening – but we could still wish.)
The filmmakers and the subjects did not expect the outcome of the election and this is what makes “The Final Year” a fascinating study of the four people in the Obama administration that helped shape our foreign policy. The thing that I notice most as Barker’s camera follows his subjects is the dedication to the policy makers’ job and their country.
We follow each of the four as they travel around the world, with the president and on their own, to such varied lands as Vietnam, Laos, Hiroshima, Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, Paris and Greece. As the final year progresses, the staff begins the lengthy preparations for the smooth transition to the incoming administration. They assumed, early on, that the transition would be to Hillary Clinton. The realization, toward the end of the campaign, that would not be is met with palpable sadness.
Here is a case where the filmmakers and their subjects, over their months together, live with certain expectations of seamless transition of power. In a weird twist of fate, Hillary lost and Donald won and the tone of “The Final Year” turned from hopeful and optimistic to resigning to what that fate brought on us all. I give it a B-.
Laura also gives "The Final Year" a -B.
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