Documentary Review: ‘The Way I See It’

Review by James Lindorf

Director Dawn Porter (John Lewis: Good Trouble) is back with her second feature-length documentary of the year. “The Way I See It” is based on the New York Times #1 bestsellers, “Obama: An Intimate Portrait” and “Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents.” Both were written by former Official White House Photographer Pete Souza. This official 2020 selection of the Telluride and Toronto International Film Festivals captures a history lesson and Souza’s frustrations in one heartfelt love letter to Barack Obama. “The Way I See It” is presented by Focus Features and MSNBC Films with a limited theatrical release beginning on September 18th before airing on MSNBC October 9th at 10 pm ET.

“The Way I See It” is described as giving an unprecedented look behind the scenes of two of the most iconic Presidents in American History, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan. That statement is a half-truth. This film is an unparalleled behind the scenes look at Obama’s life during his presidency. Regan gets the spotlight for at most a couple of minutes, no more than Lyndon B. Johnson, and less than the current President. This is a profile of one of the most beloved, hated, and underappreciated men in United States history. To begin his Presidency, Obama had to take over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he inherited a collapsing economy. Then there were two major viral outbreaks, and one of the most atrocious events in US History at Sandy Hook. To top it off, everything he accomplished had to be done despite the roadblocks put in his way by Mitch McConnel and the rest of the republican party. Through all the political successes and failures, through the human tragedies and triumphs of the American spirit, Obama handled it all with grace, empathy, and humility.

Dawn Porter is on a roll capturing the importance and inspirational qualities of significant political figures first with John Lewis and now with Obama. “The Way I See It” Is a different type of film though. Part of the film is a traditional documentary with footage of Souza at speaking engagements and interviews with various figures. The other aspect, which comprises the majority of the film, is essentially a slide show with Souza and others speaking over images he captured while working at the Whitehouse. Souza was relatively apolitical beyond his work. He doesn’t say that every decision Obama made was the correct one, or even a good one; this is less about Obama, the Democrat, and more about Obama the human being. “The Way I See It” is a beautiful film that encapsulates Souza’s feelings about the current and former Whitehouse inhabitants and evokes both awe and anger in its audience.

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