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Case Number 12573: Small Claims Court

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Senator Obama Goes To Africa

First Run Features // 2007 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // December 11th, 2007

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum is considering Barack Obama for president, but will never vote for Dr. Phil, even if he's a friend of Oprah.

The Charge

As seen on Oprah!

The Case

"There's not a liberal America and a conservative America. There's the United States of America. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states, and have gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war, and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."
—Barack Obama from a DNC keynote speech

At a recent holiday cocktail party a friend of mine mused on how the elections of 2008 were being slowed down by the writer's strike of 2007. You see, without the talk shows like The Tonight Show or the comedy of The Daily Show, candidates are having to find other ways to get in front of the public. Odd as that sounded at first it made sense, and when I sat down to look at Senator Obama Goes to Africa I wondered if this might be a new way to get votes. Just release a video endorsed by Oprah! Unfortunately it won't win you new voters, but it will serve to affirm those already headed your direction as the elections loom on the horizon. I can only see Obama supporters grabbing this DVD, and they will be satisfied with the material. Critics of the Illinois senator probably won't give it a second glance.

Senator Barack Obama went to Kenya and various sites in Africa to accomplish two very specific goals. First, he wanted to address health issues around HIV and Africa to highlight them for the United States. It would give him a chance to talk about the crisis as well as address the genocide in Darfur. Second, it would give him a chance to show his ability to handle foreign policy to further his political career. His father is from Kenya, so there was a personal odyssey in here as he visited family in Africa. Senator Obama Goes to Africa is the documentary footage of this pilgrimage, filmed by a crew intent on showing him in a positive light. We get to hear him make speeches, and get to feel like we have a sense of where he has come from (although he never lived a long time in Kenya). He addresses the legacy of his father extensively, and he does not mention his mother except in passing. Most personal issues are avoided skillfully, and we see how much of a politician he is. There are plenty of talking heads reinforcing what he wants to say, and we get a program meant to showcase the senator.

There's nothing here that is a lightning rod for political pundits; it's more a travelogue of a man's trip in front of news cameras. We see Barack Obama's wife, sister, and grandmother, but only in short bursts. The main focus is him talking, lecturing, or touring sites such as Nelson Mandela's prison cell when he goes to South Africa. He appears confident and well-spoken; nothing seems to rattle him, and he doesn't even get nervous when thousands crowd the streets giving him a rock star greeting in his home country. He's got the "never let them see you sweat" routine down cold.

The DVD presents everything with no frills. We get a widescreen transfer, and it all looks like a crisp HD broadcast on CNN. Sound is simple stereo, and dialogue is clean and clear. Extras on the DVD include an extended look at a trip to a game preserve which runs three minutes, and still pictures of the entire journey. There is also a text biography of the director Bob Hercules, director of photography, and editor. There's not a lot of campaign information or further looks at the central figure.

If you're curious about Barack Obama this will give you some insight, although I was left wanting to see more personal content. It's all predictably safe and the kind of calculated views you would expect a politician to give you. There is plenty of talk about the state of Africa, but nothing more concrete than "we need to get involved" as a final message. Anyone looking for a searing portrait or dynamic revelations will just have to wait until that infernal writer's strike is resolved. Obama is an interesting candidate, and there's more to him than this DVD will show you. It's him in a comfort zone. Now ship Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, John Edwards, and Mitt Romney to Africa? You'd have a DVD hit on your hands! Perhaps since right now none of them can hit the talk shows we should make all presidential hopefuls play a game of Survivor in Darfur, or at the very least Big Brother in a safe studio for a week or two.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 84

Perp Profile

Studio: First Run Features
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• A Visit to the Masai Mara Game Preserve with the Obama Family
• An African Journey in Pictures


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