There was a stretch in the mid-2000s when seemingly every nonfiction book and movie about the recent past used 9/11 as a turning point. Even if their subjects weren’t in New York that day or weren’t otherwise directly affected, it was too seismic an event to ignore. We’re now entering a period in which America’s greatest shame since Jim Crow will keep coming up, and that 2016 election of a rapist and white supremacist necessarily looms over the back half of Greg Barker’s unintentionally melancholic documentary The Final Year.
The year in question is January 2016 through January 2017, the last 12 months of the Obama administration. Barker follows Susan Rice, Samantha Power, John Kerry, Deputy National Security Adviser (and primary focal point) Ben Rhodes, and ol’ Barry himself as they go about doing what they can to ensure Obama’s legacy endures, and leave the world a better place than they found it. The sense that their errand might be doomed begins to build around July as the Pussygrabber starts appearing more on background screens. In a speech toward the end of The Final Year, Obama muses that while history zigs and zags, “the trendlines, ultimately, will be in the direction of a less violent, more empathetic, more generous world.” If only it were so.
Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.