Sept. 9, 2017
Greg Barker had his film, The Final Year, released at the Toronto Film Festival this month. It was reviewed byVariety:
For most of the 90 days director Greg Barker and his crew followed President Barack Obama’s foreign policy team for “The Final Year,” they surely believed they were making a documentary about the merits of diplomatic engagement, which led to hard-won achievements like the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord, and the normalization of relations with Cuba. But Donald Trump’s shocking victory in the 2016 presidential election casts the film in a different light, exposing the fragility of policies and agreements that can be upended with the stroke of a pen. Yet “The Final Year” clings to a precooked thesis about the Obama Doctrine that misses the behind-the-scenes drama and candor of superior political documentaries like “The War Room” or “Weiner.” Political junkies, particularly those pining for the last eight years, may want to see Obama’s ideals in action, but any election-year tension is conspicuously absent.
Shot over 90 days in 21 countries, “The Final Year” follows administration officials who operate under the core belief that policies have human consequences and that it’s necessary to leave the Washington bubble to understand the needs and struggles of those affected. For Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. during Obama’s second term, that principle was rooted in her experience as a journalist covering the Yugoslav wars and her studies on genocide and displaced peoples. And when the president would go on foreign visits, he would often host public forums to listen and respond to the views of young people, promoting the idea that ordinary individuals could have a say in how the world is shaped.