BY THE PEOPLE: THE ELECTION OF BARACK OBAMA is a rather uninspired HBO-produced documentary following Barack Obama on the campaign trail through the Presidential primaries and the general election to the point of victory. The real coup for the film-makers was to have pitched the doc to the Obama camp and to the financiers as a documentary about a charismatic first-term senator who might have a shot at 2012, but to have found themselves actually on a presidential victory run. The weakness of the film is that, despite the fact that the film-makers – Amy Rice and Alicia Sams – appear to have been “embedded reporters”, there is little in the way of off-the-cuff revelation and insight. And we shouldn’t expect any, because, after all, Obama won partly because he ran such a locked-down tight media operation. So, sure, you get some footage of Obama calling home to his kids that he’ll be late in, and you get some footage of Obama trying to call Hillary on a cellphone and congratulate her on a particular primary win, but typically we are seeing campaign footage that the campaign would want us to see. Moreover, we are being shown that footage by a directing and producing team (Ed Norton) that is openly in the Obama camp. The success of the film is in documenting a particular mood at a period when the seemingly impossible became possible – the euphoria around the election campaign. It seems curiously nostalgic just a year on. But overall, there is little new here, and the events are really rather too recent to merit a trip down memory lane.
BY THE PEOPLE: THE ELECTION OF BARACK OBAMA was shown on HBO in November 2009 and is released on DVD today.