TIFF Docs

The Final Year

Greg Barker

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Greg Barker gives an unprecedented look at the shaping of US foreign policy by following key members of outgoing US President Barack Obama’s administration.

During 2016, filmmaker Greg Barker gained access to key members of outgoing US President Barack Obama's administration — Secretary of State John Kerry, Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, confidant and speech writer Ben Rhodes, and others — for an unprecedented look at the shaping of US foreign policy. While TV shows from The West Wing to Madam Secretary have invented dramas from this milieu, never has a documentary captured the real players so much in the moment.

The globe-spanning journey involves stops on multiple continents. Rhodes, who's described as sharing a "mind meld" with Obama, joins the President on historic visits to Ho Chi Minh City, Hiroshima, and Havana. Power seeks to put ordinary people at the heart of foreign policy in Nigeria and Cameroon. Kerry negotiates at the UN for a Syrian ceasefire and bears witness to global warming in Greenland. Every move they make stirs reactions from media, Congress, and the public.

While history books will be better equipped to explore political complexities, The Final Year excels at showing us the humanity of these policy makers in times of breakthrough, setback, and tragedy.

This perspective would be remarkable in any year. But 2016 stands out since US foreign policy changed dramatically under a new administration. The contrast is clear in every minute of the film. As we gain distance from the Obama years, The Final Year will serve as a vital document.

THOM POWERS

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