The conservative filmmaker pardoned by President Donald Trump in May releases his latest documentary in American theaters this Friday, with Dinesh D'Souza comparing 45 to no less a president than Abraham Lincoln.
"Death of a Nation" "cuts through progressive big lies to expose hidden history and explosive truths," D'Souza claims – but good luck finding any self-respecting film critic to back up the Indian-American conservative's words.
"It’s tempting to call 'Death of a Nation' an outrage, but, of course, that’s just what D’Souza wants," writes Owen Gleiberman in the trade magazine Variety. "Scandalous untruth isn’t simply his métier – it’s his PR machine.
"The film’s demented thesis is that postwar American liberalism is nothing more than Nazism in drag," Gleiberman declares, noting that D’Souza says Adolf Hitler was a "left-wing zealot" who, er, frequented the same pub as Lenin; that Josef Mengele was a “progressive” because he performed abortions in postwar South America; and that Hitler stole the idea for the Final Solution from the genocide of Native Americans. D’Souza places the blame for that particular slaughter, much like every other problem in America, firmly at the door of the Democratic Party.
As in his previous documentaries, D'Souza uses historical reenactments to illustrate his point that the Nazi Party and Hitler were actually a bunch of liberals. Further, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mussolini were "kindred spirits," as the AV Club notes, and Hitler couldn't possibly be a rabid right-winger because he "tolerated" homosexuals within the upper echelons of the army (conveniently overlooking the thousands he sent to death camps).
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One recreation shows several Nazis in the 1930s discussing how they should identify Jews. “How does the American identify the Negro?” asks one. “One drop rule. Any discernible black ancestry makes one count as black,” says another. “Even if someone acts white, they could still be counted as black?” a third Nazi asks. D'Souza then notes in the narration that, "incredibly, the Nazis found the Democratic one-drop rule too racist even for them!”
There are other painful historical recreations featuring Hitler and the Third Reich. One scene features a young woman making a protest against the Nazis by throwing heaps of documents over a railing in a swastika-filled hall. She then defiantly tells her interrogators, "An end to terror is preferable to a terror with no end!"
D'Souza can already start making alternative plans for every awards ceremony to be held in the next 12 months.
D’Souza told the Hollywood Reporter that he relied on two sources for the claims about the Nazis in his film: James Whitman’s "Hitler’s American Model" and George Fredrickson's "Racism." Bizarrely, the film actually has a direct connection to "Schindler's List" in producer Gerald R. Molen, who worked on both movies.
Critics were unmoved by D'Souza's claims for authenticity. Under the headline "More nonsense from Trump's favorite filmmaker," Matt Prigge wrote in the Guardian: "Throughout, D’Souza does what he always does: He drops a bombshell, then before you’ve had a chance to recover, he hits you with another, over and over and over, for nearly two hours. It’s a downright Trumpian move: Exhaust your enemies (and your supporters) through the sheer volume of your nonsense. Confusing through multiplicity has long been one of his favorite tricks. And he has a heaping bag of them."
Some critics questioned whether they should be giving any space to the filmmaker's right-wing guff in praise of Trump and off-the-screen rants against liberals.
Indiewire's David Ehrlich opined that "D’Souza’s revisionism is too popular to ignore, his conspiracy theories too widely accepted as fact. Even his lowest-grossing documentaries made more than $10 million at the box office, putting them on par with monster hits like 'RBG' [about Ruth Bader Ginsburg] and 'Won’t You Be My Neighbor?' [about Fred Rogers]. He may be preaching to the choir, but the choir has grown so loud that millions of other Americans can no longer hear themselves think. We can call them lunatics, but we can’t pretend that no one takes them seriously."
D'Souza even interviews white supremacist Richard Spencer. However, the Guardian notes that this is "so D’Souza can ask him leading questions, in a comically unconvincing attempt to make him and his fellow Nazis sound unconservative."
The true hero of the film, of course, is Trump. When the president controversially pardoned D'Souza – who was convicted of making an illegal campaign contribution and sentenced to five years' probation in 2014 – he told him in May, "You've been a great voice for freedom. I've got to tell you, man to man, you've been screwed."
"Death of a Nation" looks like D'Souza's get-out-of-jail/thank-you card. "Trump has Lincoln's inner toughness, but he needs the Republican Party to get behind him," " D'Souza gushes in the film.
"Death of a Nation" may not make $33 million at the box office like D'Souza's breakout 2012 hit, "2016: Obama's America." Still, it is guaranteed to get many "snowflakes" hot under the collar. We will leave the last word to Indiewire's Ehrlich, who wrote: "Donald Trump may have pardoned Dinesh D’Souza for his crimes against the country, but I will never pardon him for his crimes against the cinema."