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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Biography - Barack Obama
Biography - Barack Obama
A&E Video // PG // August 5, 2008
List Price: $12.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted September 13, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Show:
 
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 Law Review.

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 nominee.  

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 DVD:


Audio:

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 was strong.

Video:

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 shimmer.

Extras:

There are no extras.

Final Thoughts:

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 good rental.

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