In a summer dominated by sequels and reboots comes another retread of sorts — "Hillary's America" — the latest documentary by far-right filmmaker and writer Dinesh D'Souza.
The promotional materials feature an image of Clinton standing in front of an adoring crowd with her arms outstretched, with a positively demonic image of her eyes superimposed behind her. Following the RNC, where multiple speakers declared the presumptive nominee should be thrown in jail, and at least one suggested that she indirectly admires Satan, this film will surely only contribute to a climate of vitriol being heaped onto the former secretary of state.
Four years ago, D'Souza unleashed "2016: Obama's America," a hyper-partisan take-down of the president based on his own 2010 book "The Roots of Obama's Rage." That film, which featured an infamous interview with the president's estranged half-brother George, tried to make the case that Obama had from a very young age been indoctrinated with anti-colonialist propaganda, which allegedly formed the basis of his own pseudo-Marxist political philosophy.
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Although widely derided by critics — Entertainment Weekly called the film "a nonsensically unsubstantiated act of character assassination" — "2016: Obama's America" grossed $33 million at the box office in the summer of 2012, enough to rank it as the fifth-highest grossing documentary film released in the U.S.
And like any breakout, unexpected success — there is an inevitable sequel, once again arriving in the summer of an election year, and in this case opening wide on the weekend that proceeds the Democratic National Convention.
"They’ll be putting out their official narrative, what they want you to know about them and we’ll putting out the unofficial narrative, what they don’t want you to know about them," D'Souza told 1200 WOIAconservative radio host Joe Pags recently.
In that same interview, D'Souza suggested his film was as much an indictment of what he considers the Democratic Party's sordid history as Clinton herself. He lays the blame for slavery, lynching and Jim Crow, among other atrocities, at their feet, arguing that "the Democrats have very cleverly gotten away with blaming America for things that they did."
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"We are gonna put this movie in the face of African-Americans, of minorities, of immigrants, of young people and we're going to point the finger for these crimes at the Democratic party," he added — without acknowledging the well-documented shift of segregationists from Democrats to the Republican camp following the civil rights landmarks of the '60s, or the persistent animus between the majority of black voters and the GOP ever since.
"Although the film has a slippery grasp on truth, any student of history — liberal or conservative — will readily admit that 19th-century Democrats did support slavery," writes The Washington Post's Alan Zilberman in his review. "The contours of today’s political parties didn’t come into focus until after the New Deal and the GOP’s infamous 'Southern strategy' of the civil rights era. D’Souza conveniently never utters that phrase, flashing back instead to re-creations of scenes featuring Democrats beating slaves and putting on Klan hoods."
And while "2016: Obama's America" certainly presented an ominous portrait of the 44th president, "Hillary's America" (which is also based on a D'Souza book, "America: Imagine the World Without Her") appears to be taking an even more overtly horror-genre route.
Related: Scholar Behind Anti-Obama Film, Dinesh D'Souza, Gets Probation
The poster for the new film even comes complete with a testimonial quote from legendary "Exorcist" author William Peter Blatty ("Utterly terrifying," it reads).
"These alarmist partisan documentaries have a significantly greater opportunity to find a wider audience in a presidential election year," Daniel Loria, managing editor of Pro.BoxOffice.com, told NBC News on Friday. "Considering this has been a particularly acrimonious election cycle — especially with the sort of attacks being leveled at Hilary Clinton — it wouldn't surprise me if this movie picks up traction with older audiences that haven't been to the movies in a while."
Not unlike its predecessor, D'Souza's latest has been savaged by critics — it currently averages a score of just 1 on Metacritic and has just a 5% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"['Hillary’s America'] is the cinematic equivalent of a drunk man at a sports bar sucking back whole jalapeño peppers hoping for applause without ever being dared," writes Jordan Hoffman for The Guardian, in one of the more charitable reviews. "The amusement in watching doesn’t compensate for the pity one feels for someone so desperate for attention."
It's true that the last few years have not been kind to the author-turned-documentation. In 2012, D'Souza was forced to step down from his position as president of the faith-based King's College in New York after he was accused of engaged in an extramarital affair. And in 2014, he was sentenced to serve 8 months in a halfway house after he was convicted of making illegal campaign contributions, an episode which D'Souza dramatically re-enacts in his new film.
Related: Dinesh D'Souza Accused of Illegal Campaign Contributions
"It all began when the Obama administration tried to shut me up," he intones in the trailer.
D'Souza and his attorneys have alleged that he's been a target for retribution from the White House ever since his conviction, but in recent years it is he who has been antagonizing the president — at least publicly.
During the Ebola scare of 2014, D'Souza seized onto the moment to take shots at the president's deceased father. “Which is a more dangerous infection: #Ebola, or the dreams from his father?” he tweeted. He also directed fire at the healthy eating initiatives of first lady Michelle Obama:
Even more incendiary was a racially offensive social media attack he launched on the president the following year, after sharing an image of him with a selfie stick from a BuzzFeed video entitled, “Things Everybody Does But Doesn’t Talk About":
Following the backlash, D'Souza wrote: "TRANSLATING FOR OBAMA GROUPIES: A guy without class doesn't become a classy guy, even when he's in the White House."
The firebrand's last attempt to derail a Democratic nominee was ultimately unsuccessful. After initially outperforming expectations, "2016: Obama's America" never appeared to catch on with audiences who were not already pre-disposed to oppose the president. Obama won re-election handily in the fall. And if Zilberman's review is indicative of how most mainstream audiences receive his latest, it may fail to influence voters as well.
"By the time he gets around to attacking Clinton — with nothing that will seem new to the average viewer of Fox News — the film is more than half over," he writes. "D’Souza may wish to tilt the election, but he’ll be lucky if his fans can make it through his film without falling asleep."