What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that America -- a documentary film from Dinesh D'Souza and John Sullivan -- has a distinctly conservative point of view. It uses interviews, newsreel footage, reenactments (some showing violent battles with rifles, bayonets, and on-camera deaths), as well as speeches and the written words of America's founders to claim that there's an ongoing conspiracy, fuelled by leftist radicals, to shame America, undermine the country's principles, and ultimately cause its destruction by "suicide" from within. D'Souza is the interviewer, the narrator, and the lecturer. A few short scenes depart from actual history -- i.e. in a reenactment, George Washington is killed by a sniper's bullet, but he's soon on screen again, alive and well, as he leads the country in its formative years. How this film will be perceived depends mostly on viewers' existing attitudes and beliefs. For those who come to the film with no preconceptions, it's crucial to have resources for fact-checking and to understand who the players are and what they hope to achieve.
- Families can talk about the use of historical reenactments to heighten a film's message. In dramatic movies "based on" or "inspired by" true stories, viewers have come to accept the fact that the filmmakers imagine what might happened in individual scenes. Is this true for documentaries, or should there be a different standard?
- Discuss the various goals of filmmaking: to inform, to entertain, or to persuade. What is the primary purpose of America? How do you know? Why is it important to understand the filmmakers' purpose?
- Do you think documentaries are required to be objective? Why or why not?
- Did this movie show you or help you "imagine a world without America"? If not, why do you think that phrase/tagline was part of the film's marketing?