How do we assess the legacy of President Barack Obama, especially in the wake of an election that is determined to undo many of his accomplishments? Al Jazeera attempts to form a clear-eyed perspective on this confusing period in American politics with their documentary From Obama to Trump.
When he was first elected in 2008, President Obama stood as a transformative figure of hope and change for people throughout the civilized world. The film acknowledges a myriad of positive accomplishments during his two terms in office, but it is also extremely frank in what it views as his failures. These include mounting tensions in Syria, the emergence of ISIS, trembling relations with Russia, and an economy that remains far too sluggish for many Americans.
The filmmakers view race as a particularly fascinating factor of the Obama legacy. Much of the positivity and goodwill that surrounded his election stemmed from the notion of a post-racial society. Alas, this hope might have just been an illusion as deep racial divisions continued to plague America's cities during his presidency. One brief segment of the film explores the inner city discord which led to the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Obama's foreign and domestic policies are also placed under a microscope throughout the course of the film. The film smartly provides the pros and cons of each issue, including the enactment of the Affordable Care act, the Iran nuclear deal, historic climate change agreements, and escalating skirmishes in the Middle East.
From Obama to Trump summarizes the former president's legacy as a mixed bag of merits and shortcomings. Regardless of each viewer's individual take on Obama's overall job performance, one thing is for certain. President Trump was elected in large part on the promise that he would reverse many of his key actions.
So, what does it all mean? Only time will tell. After all, the true meaning of history can only reveal itself in hindsight, and the concluding chapters on the Obama presidency have not yet been determined. For this reason, the film focuses on providing thoughtful questions more than concrete conclusions.