Dinesh D’Souza picked a perfect time to release the documentary “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party,” coming out on the heels of the Republican National Convention, just as the GOP should be rallying around the goal of defeating presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
But any conservative voters who check out the latest film from the conservative filmmaker (”2016: Obama’s America”), author and convicted felon will be disappointed by what they find. Incurious to a fault, it’s too incoherent for serious argument.
D’Souza and co-director Bruce Schooley use re-enactments to offer distorted accounts of everything from D’Souza’s legal troubles to dramatic episodes from American history. D’Souza plays himself in an exaggerated scene set in the halfway house where he spent eight months after breaking campaign finance laws; the other convicts are muscle-bound murderers and thieves who provide a straightforward narrative of how ordinary Americans are routinely swindled. D’Souza then free-associates, wondering how this narrative might apply to Democrats.
The bulk of “Hillary’s America” looks at the administrations of Andrew Jackson through Franklin Roosevelt. D’Souza’s main point is that Democrats, not Republicans, are racists, and they’re now trying to “steal America.”
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. 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 recreations of scenes featuring Democrats beating slaves and putting on Klan hoods.
The only redeeming parts of “Hillary’s America” are when it veers into unintentional comedy. In one bizarre sequence, Woodrow Wilson screens “The Birth of a Nation” at the White House, as a ghostly Klansman leaps from the screen and onto the adjacent lawn. D’Souza’s framing device for his expos of Democratic secrets involves him breaking into DNC headquarters. (Is he even aware of how the Watergate scandal started?)
There’s a laziness about “Hillary’s America,” but it’s cinematic, not historical. D’Souza lets scenes drag, jumping through history in ways that quash any sense of discovery and creating an overall sense of boredom. (The wooden acting doesn’t help, nor does the orchestral rendition of “God Bless America” playing over images of national landmarks.)
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.
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.
Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
Unrated: Violence, language, sexual situations. Director: Dinesh D’Souza. Running time: 106 minutes. Theaters: Edwards 21, Edwards 14, Majestic 18.