Film Review: ‘America: Imagine the World Without Her’

America: Imagine the World Without Her

A slick, sprawling celebration of American exceptionalism from conservative writer and sociopolitical commentator Dinesh D'Souza.

After scoring a surprise box office success with his “2016: Obama’s America,” an agitprop portrait of our current U.S. president as a “breathtakingly anti-American” radical, conservative author and sociopolitical commentator Dinesh D’Souza strikes again with “America: Imagine the World Without Her,” a slick, sprawling celebration of American exceptionalism that could, much like its predecessor, make a bundle by rigorously reinforcing the deeply held beliefs and darkest suspicions of its target audience. A well-timed theatrical rollout in major markets during the upcoming July 4 holiday weekend will only enhance this aggressively patriotic documentary’s commercial appeal.

D’Souza sticks fairly close to the same game plan he employed for “2016,” once again sharing writing and directing chores with co-producer John Sullivan, and pulling double duty as narrator and oncamera interviewer. (He also appears here, fleetingly, as a fast-food restaurateur in a comedy sketch intended to illustrate the joys of capitalism.) The big difference in “America” is an abundance of cable TV-style historical re-enactments — sporadic sequences in which actors portray, with varying degrees of success, figures ranging from Abraham Lincoln (a strikingly effective Don Taylor) to Hilary Clinton (a none-too-persuasive Jennifer Pearson).

One such sequence, evidently set in an alternative universe, kicks off the film by dramatizing the fatal shooting of George Washington during a Revolutionary War battle. D’Souza follows this with portentous imagery (including the erasure of Mount Rushmore) and rhetorical questions — like, what if Hitler had developed the atomic bomb first? — that suggest “America” really will imagine what the world would have been like if the colonies had never broken free of British rule.

But no: Despite its provocative title, the film — most of it, at least — is less speculative fiction than impassioned counterpoint. Drawing largely from his own published work, D’Souza offers a point-by-point response to historical revisionists, social activists and community organizers who want to define America as “a predatory colonial power,” and dwell on such unpleasant topics as the decimation of Native Americans, the mistreatment of blacks and Mexicans, and the widening gap between rich and poor in a capitalist society.

To his credit, D’Souza gives screen time to a few interviewees — like Native American rights activist Charmaine White Face — who clearly aren’t buying what he’s selling. For the most part, however, D’Souza gives the impression of someone obsessed with whitewashing any and all dark chapters in U.S. history books.

There are times when his defenses and rationalizations come across as almost laughably facile. Sure, he says, slavery was a bad thing. But, hey, there also were enslaved white people — indentured servants, to be precise — and some Deep South freed blacks who bred and sold slaves. And, yes, racism isn’t very nice. But just look at how a 19th-century African-American lady named C.J. Walker triumphed as a self-reliant capitalist while selling hair-care products and becoming a millionaire.

D’Souza devotes considerable time and energy to scornfully rebuking Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” which he views as positively un-American in its alternative view of the American mythos. Oddly enough, D’Souza displays almost as much contempt for actor Matt Damon, whom he characterizes as a Zinn acolyte and, worse, something of a hypocrite simply for being a highly paid movie star.

“America” shifts gears during its final half-hour, lurching from revisionism of historical revisionism to cautionary speculation. While focusing on the legacy of leftist community organizer Saul Alinsky — depicted here as an apt pupil of Chicago gangsters — he duly notes Alinsky’s influence on Obama’s agenda. But wait, there’s more: D’Souza also gets to take a pre-emptive shot at presumed presidential hopeful Clinton by dramatizing how the one-time “Goldwater girl” was led over the leftie dark side by Alinsky.

Anyone who has kept track of D’Souza’s untidy private life and recent legal difficulties may approach “America” wondering: Will he or won’t he? And as it turns out: Yes, he does indeed acknowledge his arrest and subsequent plea bargain for violation of campaign finance laws.

But D’Souza shrewdly places this acknowledgement in the context of a lengthy final section devoted to dire warnings about increased government surveillance of U.S. citizenry, charges of politically motivated law enforcement, and heavy-handed efforts by prosecutors to wring guilty pleas from defendants with threats of maximum prison sentences. Everything leads to the melodramatic image of a handcuffed D’Souza anxiously cooling his heels in a dank jail cell, hammering home the message: In Obama’s un-American America, this … could … happen … to … you.

By the way: It will be interesting to see how some viewers react to D’Souza’s repeated (and approving) depiction of the Civil War as a noble battle waged by Abraham Lincoln and his Union Army solely to end slavery in the United States. Quite a few far-right, states-rights zealots might beg to differ with that view of American history.

Tech values are polished across the board, with composer Bryan E. Miller earning special credit for his genuinely stirring opening theme.

Film Review: 'America: Imagine the World Without Her'

Reviewed at Edwards Marq*E Cinema, Houston, June 27, 2014. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 103 MIN.

Production

(Documentary) A Lionsgate release and presentation of a D’Souza Entertainment production. Produced by Gerald R. Molen. Executive producers, Dinesh D’Souza, John Sullivan, Bruce Schooley.

Crew

Directed by John Sullivan, Dinesh D’Souza. Screenplay, Sullivan, D’Souza, Bruce Schooley, based on the book by D’Souza. Camera (B&W/color), Benjamin Huddleston; editors, Rickie Lee, Jeffrey Linford; music, Bryan E. Miller; sound (Dolby Digital), Juniper Post.

With

Dinesh D’Souza, Charmaine White Face, Noam Chomsky, Michael Eric Dyson, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Alan Dershowitz, Jennifer Pearson, Josh Bonzie, Don Taylor.
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  1. WiscoJoe says:

    First they came for the American Indians, the African slaves, the Mexicans, the women, the gays, the poor, and pretty much everyone else, and I said nothing because American can do no wrong and it would be anti-American to suggest otherwise. But then they came for Dinesh D’Souza and I freaked out because America is a totalitarian surveillance state or something.

    Seriously, how can any right-minded person abide by this level of self-serving mythology and rank cognitive dissonance? Congrats Lionsgate! You own this crap.

  2. THicks says:

    –By the way: It will be interesting to see how some viewers react to D’Souza’s repeated (and approving) depiction of the Civil War as a noble battle waged by Abraham Lincoln and his Union Army solely to end slavery in the United States. Quite a few far-right, states-rights zealots might beg to differ with that view of American history.–

    The vast majority if historians would beg to differ also (that Lincoln and his army went to war to stop slavery). For one thing, it contradicts Lincoln’s own words. I think the writer needs to read a little history.

    • What vast majority of historians are you talking about? Even Wikipedia disagrees with you. While not a strict abolitionist, Lincoln was against slavery and advocated for it. He used his executive powers to sign the Emancipation Proclamation which declared all people living in the US, free.

      The civil war was fought for two reasons 1) keep the union together, 2) end slavery.

      Revisionist historians have tilted at windmills and tried to repaint Lincoln’s motivations differently and something less than noble. Lincoln was one of the greatest presidents of this country and paid for his work with his life.

  3. vikingamerican says:

    Wow.

    I learned much about the reviewer’s personal views and especially who and what this reviewer hates…and what this reviewer learned from his friends and his college……and only a little about this film…

    Read this review (after Variety asked me to subscribe…how capitalistic of them!!!)..Surprised this reviewer is not sneering at Variety owners’ desire to earn money, but then capitalism is “ok” when it pays your salary.

    I do plan to see this film, if only to see what generates such high contempt…

  4. Dave says:

    The Civil War was fought mainly to keep the north and south together. Slavery became a 2nd issue but it wasn’t the main issue. I suggest people read real history books that are usually dated prior to the 1970’s. Modern history books often get it wrong.

  5. 3D says:

    I was fortunate to see a preview of America and found it thought provoking. Any bias’ in perspective aside, D’Souza did succeed at normalizing the leftist rhetoric of Zinn. Was America alone the sole origin of slavery in the world? Zinn would have you think so – or should I say – feel so. Was America guilty of displacing native Americans in order to gain the lands they possessed – yes! Just as the native Americans had done to one another for how long? Just as any nation has done in order to expand its resources throughout history. So is colonization at the expense of native people’s a uniquely American trait – no its a human one.

    If anything, D’Souza shows us that the world would indeed be a very different place without her. That is of course based on the assumption you actually value her in the first place. America and her people have a history of giving – to the world and to fellow Americans. That’s something we’ll never be ashamed of, regardless of the perspective of Zinn and others like him.

  6. Douglas says:

    I think this is going to be a great movie!!

  7. Chris Robey says:

    can’t wait to see it!

  8. Joe Leydon says:

    Believe it or not, a conservative actually Tweeted me a complaint about this review. Not because he disliked the review, mind you. But he was angry about D’Souza’s view of the Civil War, a war he evidently believes was NOT fought to end slavery.

    • Judi says:

      The Civil War was NOT fought to end slavery. It was fought to keep the union unified. The end of slavery was secondary.

      • vikingamerican says:

        The Civil War was indeed fought for two reasons…One to keep the states together…but (as can be seen in Lincoln’s LATE life comments) slavery became the primary issue…The young Lincoln thought rather differently than the late in life Lincoln…who, after several years of the Civil War, came to see slavery as the primary cause…with some wishing to dissolve the Union because of their desire to keep slaves…The two causes are intertwined with the desire to own slaves as the evil ROOT cause…

        My source? Read Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres32.html

    • RetiredTinCanSailor says:

      Joe, I hate to break it to you, but the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery… I suggest you read up on the subject and learn something. It was more arguably fought over two issues, states rights, and, of all things, tax policies. Our impressionable children are taught that the war was fought to free the slaves; that is wrong on so many fronts that it is laughable to even suggest such a thing.

      Simply put, freeing the slaves came up as a way to keep the Brits and France from supporting the south, which they wanted to do. They needed trade with the south, but the industrial north was a competitor, not a supplier to the industrial European nations. When Lincoln brilliantly signed the Emancipation Proclamation, all talk of military and financial aid to the south ceased in rabidly anti-slavery Europe. Secondarily, he had hoped that this proclamation would cause a wide-spread rebellion amongst the slaves, which would hamper the South’s war efforts by tying up forces and causing disruptions in supply lines.

      For those that think Lincoln was some rabid supporter of the cause of black people, here is a quote from Lincoln’s fourth debate with Stephen Douglas in 1858: “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.”

      As yourself this, if the war was fought over slavery, why did Lincoln wait 18 months to issue the proclamation, and why did he delay implementation even longer – till 1 Jan 1863?

      The more you know…

      • Joe Leydon says:

        With all due respect — and i don’t mean this to sound snarky or condescending — you have just proved my point: D’Souza’s characterization of the Civil War as a noble cause to free slaves doubtless will upset some people on his own side of the political divide.

  9. tom Adams says:

    Seems to me as the reviewer is so duped by his educators and leftist elitist mentality he cannot receive the message D’Souza has brought historical fact to back it….obviously the reviewer doesn’t know or just refuses to accept the facts of history…..mainly because he can’t accept the God of the Bible and His interest in the affairs of man when man endeavors to honor Him

  10. charles116 says:

    D’Souza is just a professional Obama hater.
    Once he’s out of office Dinesh’s career is over.
    On other sites he’s pleading wit people to ask local theaters to screen his film/
    Couldn’t find a major publisher for the book that accompanies this visual twaddle.
    When does he get sentenced already?

    • You can speak, But you cannot say anything.

    • Steven Green says:

      I feel sorry for the small minded nitpickers who can’t (refuse) to see the truth of America’s unbelievable positive impact on the big picture of the world as a force for good. They accept the human faults of those they try to defend and promote yet crucify America for its historical faults (which are the results of humans as well) making it less than perfect. They seek out our faults and try to highlight them to denigrate the incredible influence for good we have had on this planet. Shame on them. You can strive to improve and try to be perfect without tearing down the overwhelmingly big picture of good we have done in spite of our imperfections. Their message is one of negativity and their contributions for the total good are minimal.

  11. Lyss says:

    Am I the only one who is eternally bugged by the way United States citizens will refer to their part of the continent of North America as “America.” Sorry guys, you are NOT America.

    • Nomasidiotas says:

      Lyss, no, unfortunately, you aren’t the only one, but you are, fortunately, rare. I am one of those Americans eternally bugged by revisionists and outsiders who seem to have a self-centered discomfort at our naming, that it is somehow improper or chauvinistic or something. This reveals not only a touchiness, but ignorance of historical perspective. The name of our country is The United States of America and for centuries, the citizens of this country are and have always been called “Americans”. We sensibly named ourselves who we are. Eventually, other peoples around the world followed our lead and threw off the monarchies they endured. Maybe some of their names will help you understand the history: the citizens of Los Estados Unidos de Mexico, our neighbors to the south are called “Mexicans”, but before that they were called Spanish. Historically, down in South America the República dos Estados Unidos do Brasil, the “Brazilians”, broke away from an empire and formed their own country and are no longer called “Portuguese”. America is properly, historically, legally and culturally our name. Other people in the Americas have their own names as well. Sorry Lyss, we ARE America, and we ARE Americans. It is who we are and it will never change. Historically, there have been many “United States” in this world, so please don’t call us “United States citizens” unless you include “of America”. We happen to be the “American” United States, aka America, inhabited by Americans. Sure, there are many other countries and national names on the American continents, but none of the others are “America” and their inhabitants are, and properly so, not referred to as Americans, rather they are called after their own nationalities. So now that you understand, maybe you can get to the point that it won’t bug you anymore.

      • audiophile says:

        I don’t see anything wrong with calling ourselves “American”…
        Not too be nit-picky, though, the official name of Brazil is República Federativa do Brasil.
        And Mexico’s isn’t actually “the United States of Mexico” but literally “Mexican United States” (Estados Unidos Mexicanos). When they were a colony of Spain, they were not called “Spanish,” only the actual Spaniards were. The land was not called “Spain” just as when the 13 colonies that formed the USA were not merely called “England” or “Britain.” The colonies had names, and some of them were referred to collectively in several different ways.
        Yes, the USA was one of the first successful attempts at federal democratic republics in modern times, and at this point our Constitution is unique in being one of the longest-lasting documents of statehood incorporation. Most other democratic republics have rewritten theirs a number of times.
        Probably the reason we are known as Americans and the other inhabitants off North & South America are known by different labels is merely because we were the first in our neighborhood to seize independence from our colonial rulers… and “United Statesians” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as elegantly.

      • Zach says:

        Well said!!!

  12. BarKStar says:

    When I aw the trailer for this, I thought it was supposed to be a parody.

  13. Lee says:

    Everyone’s entitled to an opinion – one of the liberties we enjoy in America.
    Let’s at least be honest about it though. This isnt an honest critique of the film, it is most definitely a liberal opinion piece.
    I freely admit I have a conservative bias and I’m not ashamed of it.

    A healthy dose of history containing both the failures and triumphs of the United States is what we need. Learn from the mistakes and celebrate/emulate the victories.

    America hasnt condoned slavery for generations – its time to move on.
    The strongest “tribes” took the land they were able before and after the white men came west. White people brutalized Indians and Indians brutalized white people – there is no such thing as a “noble savage”. Now we live in (although not perfect) the most civilized nation on the planet with incomparable liberty and opportunity as well as the highest standard of living bar none.. Celebrate your culture, get on board, and stop making yourselves victims.

    • Tom says:

      The most civilised nation on the planet – really?
      Incomparable liberty? – really
      The highest standard of living? – check your facts on standard of living in countries throughout the world.
      I’m assuming your living in 1960 with these statements or you have never been abroad.

      • Tom, you don’t sound like a world traveler.

      • Clearly you have not been paying attention if living abroad. Yes, we are the most civilized and freedom-protecting country on the planet. Name me one other country with a true Bill of Rights. And, of course, name all the other countries where the borders are teaming with families walking thousands of miles with the hope of getting in. Take Detroit and a few other areas of urban blight out of the picture, and our living standard is indeed higher. None of the Norways of the world have the pluralism we do that affects the standard indices, so you can drop that argument right away.

    • DJ Lovegrind says:

      So many great people leaving comments. Couldn’t agree more Lee :)

    • John Clancy says:

      Well stated. And one might add Indians brutalized other Indians and blacks brutalized other blacks. Victimization and persecution becomes a rather circular argument.

    • Thesaurusrs says:

      I always proudly handguns my flag on holidays but it’s both lazy and irresponsible to wash our hands of the job we are given to do by the Founding fathers, which is to strive to make our country a more perfect union. To do that we can’t bury our head in the sand about the consequences of the unfortunate parts of our history. Nor can we escape looking around at what needs improvement and addressing it honestly. It is our responsibility to both to our forebears and to future generations not to look the other way. We shouldn’t act like children, constantly in need of praise.

  14. Thesaurusrs says:

    The right seems terrified Damon will run for office some day, so they are always trying to undermine his box office with their constituents. Which is funny, because he’s much more likely to run for office if his career goes south. Typically flawed logic.

    • Steve-o says:

      Oh believe me we all remember Reagan and how that turned out! Yeesh!

      • Dave says:

        You can thank Reagan for the good economy during the Clinton administration. Even Clinton admits that he did nothing to change it.

      • Dave says:

        Reagan lost me big time with his comments on the Aids crisis; but I did like his economic policies and his stand against communism.

    • charles116 says:

      Gotta love all the actors with washed up careers
      like Sorbo, Wahl, Cameron and now Dean Cain who
      find NEW careers as Right Wing whackos.
      I’ll take the SUCCESSFUL A-LISTERS any day.

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