LOS ANGELES — It wasn't backed by any Hollywood movie studio. Reviews were mostly negative. It premiered in Houston, not Los Angeles or New York. And yet despite the unconventional release of "2016: Obama's America," the movie is now among the most successful political documentaries of all time — and it doesn't show signs of cooling down ahead of the presidential election in November.
The conservative film exploring the roots of President Barack Obama’s political views surprised the film industry when it took in $6.5 million to land at No. 7 at last weekend’s domestic box office.
That makes “2016” the most successful conservative documentary of all time. It all adds up to a remarkable triumph for an indie film that circumvented the liberal waters of Hollywood.
“2016” is directed by Dinesh D’Souza, a former staffer for President Ronald Reagan who is now president of King’s College in New York and author of several books, including “The Roots of Obama’s Rage.” The book is the basis for “2016,” which claims Obama’s beliefs are rooted in the anti-colonialism of his late father, a Kenyan academic who was largely absent from the president’s life.
Many of the assertions D’Souza makes in the film don’t hold up, including that Obama removed a bust of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office because Churchill represented British colonialism and that Obama has “done nothing” to impede Iran’s nuclear ambitions. There are other instances where the film takes liberties with the facts.
While the film’s portrait of a gloomy future if Obama is re-elected might make it feel like an hour-and-a-half-long political ad, the “2016” filmmakers said they only received funding from private investors, not the Republican Party, and the movie’s proceeds aren’t headed to Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s campaign.
Gerald Molen, the producer, added that the film’s estimated $2.5 million budget only came from about two dozen donors supporting D’Souza.
Although “2016” has found fans, most critics haven’t been kind. Newsday’s Rafer Guzman called it an “attempt at character assassination.” The Los Angeles Times’ Betsy Sharkey lambasted “2016” for being a “sluggish film” whose “outrage falls flat.”
“I don’t necessarily agree with everything that’s in the movie,” said Arthur Hobbs, who caught a Monday matinee of the film in Los Angeles after reading about it online. “But I do think that we really don’t know everything about Obama, even after he’s been in office for four years. I think that’s why we needed to see this movie.”