Has Dinesh D’Souza finally lost it?
Some would say that this ship has sailed, and it would have been hard to argue after his ludicrous last film, 2016’s “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party.” But hey, the guy had been convicted of violating campaign laws, a felony. Maybe he had an ax to grind. (And grind he did.)
Now he’s a free man, granted a pardon by President Donald Trump. So perhaps it’s no surprise that in his latest movie (co-directed with Bruce Schooley), the genuinely bizarre “Death of a Nation,” D’Souza compares Trump to Abraham Lincoln.
Hold on a second. ABRAHAM FREAKING LINCOLN?
Oh yeah. (If you’re looking for disclosure that Trump pardoned D’Souza, by the way, you won’t find it in his film. It’s probably buried somewhere alongside context, common sense and truth.)
What he’s gained in polemic stature, D’Souza has lost in filmmaking skill. (I actually gave “2016: Obama’s America” a somewhat positive review.) While he’s trying to make his point that Democrats are the party most like Nazis and fascists, he includes live-action recreations that are laughably inept — the film begins, in fact, with Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun hunkered down in a bunker, in which they commit suicide.
Then we cut to a young D’Souza pondering how nations die. Sometimes they’re attacked from the outside, and sometimes “they implode from within by losing what makes them distinctive.” (There should be a dog whistle sound for these kinds of statements, but alas there are not.)
Guess who’s trying to destroy what’s great about America? Yes! Bonus points to anyone who answered, “Democrats!”
D’Souza is worried, which is his default state. But he presents himself as fighting the good fight. Consider: “My film played a role” (in Trump’s victory, referring to “Hillary’s America”). I don’t know if that’s my favorite line of the film, but it’s way up there. Really, though, there are so many howlers it’s almost not fair to single out just one.
There also is, “Lincoln saved America the first time. And now, by tragic circumstances, Trump is in a similar situation.” Also good: “The progressive Democrats are the real racists. They are the true fascists. They want to steal our income. They want to steal our earnings and our wealth and our freedom and our lives.”
That’s quite an agenda. D’Souza must consider this a particularly important point, because he stops the film right here and has his wife sing for a little bit. Like, right in the middle of the movie. To say that it interrupts the narrative flow would be to suggest that there was narrative flow to begin with.
D’Souza does some of what he did in “Hillary’s America,” taking established facts (Lincoln was a Republican, Woodrow Wilson was a Democrat and a racist, some Democrats fought against civil rights, etc.) and pretending like they are some sort of secret that he alone has uncovered. He seems to have become emboldened in his stances, and now he’s got an ally in the White House. But he’s not putting his claims together in any form that makes sense.
Visually the film is hilarious, in unintended ways. D’Souza often stands in front of important places in Germany, for instance, then fades to a photo of Hitler addressing a crowd standing right where D’Souza was standing. I can’t imagine he means to compare himself to Hitler, but that’s just what the pictures do cinematically.
Of course none of will make a difference to the movie’s box-office prospects. D’Souza fans and Trump apologists will flock to this, misguided moths to a misleading flame. In that way, it’s a perfect representation of the current climate. In every other way, it’s a mess.
‘Death of a Nation’
Quality Flix presents a documentary directed by Dinesh D’Souza and Bruce Schooley. Rated PG-13 (for strong thematic material including violence/disturbing images, some language and brief drug use). Running time: 109 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.