With the meteoric rise of Barack Obama on the US political landscape, it's
only natural that A&E's Biography profile the Senator from Illinois.
They did that after he won his Senate set about two years ago, and now that
he's running for president (as of this writing) that installment of the long
running show has been released on DVD. If you're looking for something
to help you understand Barack's policies and political agenda, this isn't
the place to go. If, however, you're interested in a general and mostly
favorable look at his background and experience this should do fine.
Barack Obama has had an interesting and not necessarily smooth life.
He was born to a white American mother and black Nigerian father in 1961,
when mixed race marriages were rare. His father, an obviously intelligent
man, earned a scholarship to Harvard and moved to Massachusetts, leaving
his wife and two-year old Barack behind in Hawaii due to a lack of funds.
The strain of a long distance relation was too much for the couple and Barack's
parents divorced before his father finished his education at Harvard.
After graduating, the senior Obama returned to his native Nigeria and would
only see his son one other time, eight years after he left.
His mother remarried, a man from Indonesia this time, and Barack soon found
himself living in his step-father's native country. When Barack was
10, his mother shipped him back to Hawaii to live with her parents.
He went to high school, was accepted to college in LA, and two years later
transferred to Columbia University. He eventually decided to take a
law degree and was accepted into Harvard Law School where he graduated with
honors. While there he became the first black editor of the Harvard
Most people with such impeccable credentials would head off to Wall Street
and make buckets of money. That wasn't what Barack was interested in
doing however and instead took a job in a law firm in Chicago where he was
hoping to work on civil rights cases. The program ends up covering
his political career, running for the Illinois House, a race he lost, but
then winning a seat in the Illinois Senate. From there he successfully
ran for the US Senate. The show stops after he won a seat in the US
Senate and there is only a brief update after the credits that cover his
presidential run. This section was completed before he was the Democratic
This was an uncritical and generally flattering look at the presidential
hopeful. He does come across well, as his friends and coworkers that
are interviewed have nothing but praise for the charismatic young man.
The one interesting thing that comes out is that he hasn't really had to
run in a tight race (the Democratic primary for president being the exception)
as his opponents when he won his two senate races were tainted by scandal.
(When he ran for the US Senate the presumptive Republican candidate withdrew
his name early on when it was discovered that he brought his ex-wife to sex
clubs. Allan Keyes, a conservative talk-show host from out of state
was easily bested.)
The stereo soundtrack was fine and fit the program well. There was
little to no separation, with all of the voices fixed squarely on the screen,
but the comments of the people who were interviewed were clear and the narration
The full screen image is about what you'd expect for a recent TV show.
The colors were fine and the image was clear though there was a fair amount
of aliasing present. This was especially evident when the camera panned
across the Chicago skyline and the lines along the myriad skyscrapers would
There are no extras.
Though it is lacking on Barack's political outlook or comments on the laws
he helped pass while in the Illinois Senate, this documentary does give a
nice, brief, background to the man running for president. While it
won't change anyone's mind, either supporters or detractors, it is worth
viewing. There's little replay value however, so this would make a