Somewhere along the way, the notion started that TV no longer mattered and it was all about the Internet in influencing people's habits and behavior. That turned out to be a false assumption, and TV is still underestimated in how it influences what we do, including our votes for President of the United States. Also underestimated is the art house movie documentary that manages a mainstream release, even though the thought persists that few audiences are seeing them.
Such a thought should have been tossed away already when mainstream documentaries "Bully" and all of Morgan Spurlock's features moved major mountains in getting things done. The movie documentary has simply become one of the most powerful tools in shaping opinions, despite most of those docus having miniscule budgets that typically means little marketing. So how did Dinesh D'Souza's "2016: Obama's America" manage to gain such a strong following?
It managed to open in well over 1,000 movie theaters across the U.S. this week, particularly in the coveted multiplexes where bigger audiences can be gained. And while most people who go to mainstream theaters are likely sick to death of politics, the curiosity about President Obama's background has long been a point of contention for those with desire to vote this November. When you couple that with likely right-wing grassroots efforts, you can see how it fell out from under the radar of the left.
But the question has been broached whether it'll influence the Presidential election. According to syndicated movie critic Bill Goodykoontz, it perhaps won't persuade any opinions one way or the other based on D'Souza's speculation on Obama's true intentions. Yet Goodykoontz may have also underestimated how strong documentaries have become now in inspiring actions.
It's something that really doesn't have much in the way of a precedent. Never before have we seen a documentary release right before a Presidential election when TV and the conventions were previously thought to be where true influence was. And with the mainstream TV networks paring down their convention coverage, it's possible the conventions are going to be seen by fewer eyes than they used to receive.
The only movie in history you can arguably say could have influenced a Presidential election was "All the President's Men" in 1976. After the public frustration over President Nixon's resignation, seeing a cinematic depiction of the Watergate scandal surely must have dialed down the thought of Gerald Ford in the White House. Nobody would have thought back then to put together a theatrical documentary that showed arguable cases against Ford (or Jimmy Carter), especially when both had little to no skeletons in their political closets.
There shouldn't be any surprise, though, that as politics becomes more insidious, someone would have thought to infiltrate a new underestimated medium. "2016: Obama's America" has been revealed as the sudden new media path to get into the heart of a viewer's mind. Why that is perhaps has everything to do with sitting in a darkened theater where the focus of the material is more intense.
What it does to the outcome of the Presidency will likely mean documentaries from each opposing side by 2016. In other words, if it's still Obama's America in 2016, we'll still be in a very different land where the cinema provides the polar opposite of what you'll find on the political convention big screens.
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