Film by conservative pundit D'Souza remains top draw in theaters
The polls are looking favorable for Hillary Clinton at the moment in her quest for the White House. But one conservative commentator is doing his best to derail her campaign.
Dinesh D'Souza's unflattering portrait of the former Secretary of State and her party remains a hot ticket at the box office. Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party took in almost $1 mil. over the weekend, to easily capture the crown as the top nonfiction film, according to audience measurement firm Rentrak.
The film has collected $11,120,971 in just four weeks of release, Rentrak reported. That's the most of any documentary this year. A companion book by D'Souza is now in stores and online.
D'Souza's filmmaking skills have not impressed critics, but his movie is earning plenty of praise on Twitter, as has the director himself.
Hillary's America accuses the Democratic Party of crimes going back to the 19th century, including slavery and genocide of Native Americans. It is unquestionably true that the first Democratic President, Andrew Jackson, decimated the Indian population; it is likewise true that the nascent Republican Party, under Abraham Lincoln, saved the Union and ended slavery. Democrats in the mid-19th century were the "states rights" party, vociferously defending the idea that the Constitution permitted states to create and protect their own institutions, including slaveholding.
However, it is the Republican Party of today that is the "states rights" party. Under the guise of states rights, for instance, GOP-controlled legislatures in North Carolina and elsewhere have passed "bathroom bills" requiring transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender at birth [in practical terms this really means everyone should be walking around with their birth certificate at all times].
Similarly, GOP leaders have argued states should be allowed to pass laws granting their citizens the right to discriminate against gay people based on"sincerely held" religious beliefs. Consider the Republican Party Platform of 2016, adopted at the RNC in Cleveland, Ohio:
Any documentary purporting to reveal the history of America's two main political parties should point out the shifting nature of what the GOP and the Democratic Party stand for in terms of ideology. To do otherwise is intellectually dishonest.
To that end, a responsible filmmaker would point out what happened after President Johnson pushed through the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, over the adamant opposition of his fellow white Southern Democrats. Where did those disaffected Democrats go? They didn't stay in the party. They became Republicans, turning the South from bluest blue to reddest red.
Whatever its faults or merits, Hillary's America is likely to remain the most popular nonfiction film in the country for the foreseeable future.
These are the top five documentaries in theaters [identical order to last week]:
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.