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The Final Year

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Surface-level examination of Obama’s final year in office.

Image of The Final Year

Greg Barker/ USA/ 2017/ 79 mins

Available on DVD from Mon 5 Mar 2018

The cyclical nature of American presidential elections, and the relentless media focus on who’s going to be the next President, can often blind us to the fact that an incumbent remains in office for a few more months after the November election.

The Final Year, a documentary focusing on the self-explanatory last months of  Barack Obama‘s administration, seeks to shine some light on this, as one chapter draws to a close and another begins.

Samantha Power (US Ambassador to the United Nations) John  Kerry (Secretary of State) and Ben Rhodes (a deputy advisor of some sorts specialising in foreign policy) are the main focus here, as the camera crew follow them around on various focus meetings, foreign jaunts, and obligatory press  conferences.

Regular viewers of the 24 hour news cycle will find slim pickings here, with the usual scripted answers and stock anecdotes to the fore (John Kerry being a candid exception) offering little in the way of insight or illumination into the inner workings of the world’s most powerful nation.

Obama himself, the main focus of the piece, rarely features, and Samantha Power, well meaning and dedicated to a fault, strikes the viewer as surprisingly naïve, in her response and conduct to the myriad problems the modern world presents – big on style, but very little in the way of substance.  John Kerry, with world weary realism, as he seeks to strike a deal on Iran’s nuclear ambitions,  is the only one to emerge with any credit from this saga, a saga that hangs heavy with the presence of Donald Trump lurking in the wings.

Well shot, well edited, with good production values, The Final Year would not look out of place on any mainstream news channel as a forty-five minute documentary piece,  but sadly, fails to offer anything new or insightful about the administration of one of the most famous presidents in American history.  One for the political purists.


R.M.F. Brown is a Scottish freelance writer. His fiction works include: 'Death to Love,' 'Dr Acula's Book of Horror,' and 'A Rat's War'. He has had various short stories and reviews published in a diverse range of publications from Cassiopeia Magazine, Stalking Elk, The An Lucht Lonrach project, and Paragraph Planet. His non-fiction work as a film, video games, and TV reviewer has seen him published at The Wee Review, The Graduate Times and Spiked.

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