The Final Year Review – The Warm Nostalgia of a Relationship Revisited

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The Final Year, from Magnolia Pictures, provides unprecedented coverage over the last year of former President Obama’s Administration as they attempt to meet the foreign policy challenges in the hopes of leaving the next administration solid ground.

Directed by Greg Barker The Final Year stars former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State John Kerry, former Samantha Power U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.

The Final Year begins with Obama explaining the importance of this final year and working efficiently in order to complete as many of the open issues. In order to achieve this goal, Obama would see unprecedented foreign travel over this year, attempting to visit as many nations as possible.


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With the unknown in front of them, the film reflects on how Kerry, Power and Rhodes ended up working for the President.

Secretary of State John Kerry, at 72, had the most colorful past. President Obama, in voice over, tells of Kerry’s journey to his current position as pictures of John Kerry as a solider, a war protestor, and finally a senator fill the screen.

Growing up in the 1960’s, while the majority of American son’s were being drafted others were taking a College pass, Kerry who could’ve escaped the unbelievable conditions, enlisted in the Navy.

The film doesn’t explain Kerry, who vehemently opposed the War, honored his obligations to the military and remained loyal to his fellow soldiers. Over a three month period of heavy fighting Kerry’s actions he was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.

He returned to the United States a dedicated War protestor, eventually appearing in front of the Senate in his military greens giving an impassioned speech on the insidious nature of the War. He eventually entered politics and eventually rose to prominence.

With camera following Deputy National Security advisor Ben Rhodes, he explains his own past and personal reflections. To hear him tell it he was 24, living in New York and had planned to write novels when after hearing the Illinois State Senator Barack Obama deliver the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National convention and it changed his life and direction.

Camera crews were also following Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, as she rounded up her children, dropping them at school and heading over to the West Wing. Her story, as she explains it began in Ireland as she immigrated when she was nine. A dedicated student and scholar she eventually received a tenured Professorship at Harvard and she too felt her life had changed after hearing Obama keynote speech. As she explains, she took a sabbatical and told him she would work for free.

Suddenly a team had formed.

The Final Year is a trip back in time to a place when Obama was working with foreign leaders positioning the world economies, the world policies, and instilling in the world’s people strong leadership values.

Highlights from the last Asian Trip to Japan where he spoke at the site of Hiroshima, in Laos, where the politics of the day and the American election was gaining as much coverage as Obama’s trip.

The camera follows Secretary of State Kerry as he completes the Iranian Nuclear deal, as he is suddenly called away to Vienna, and of course all were working on the Paris Climate Deal.

Samantha Power travels to Nigeria to support the protests over the Boko Haram Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping and faces the horrors as one of the convoy trucks strikes and kills a local child who darted into traffic.


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Of course The Final Year wouldn’t be complete without the lead up to the election: Powers is holding an Election party with Women’s activist Gloria Steinem and former U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright in attendance.

The documentary effectively shows the  back office workings and breakneck effort of the final year it equally shows the complete disbelief and inability to sense, no judgments 70MM others missed it also, myself included, the mood and push-back of the American people.

The Final Year is like revisiting a relationship when it was good; warm nostalgia; a leader that was globally respected; nations were aligned in their efforts for betterment. And understandably, it ended, for me, on a downer and I remembered my own feelings of speechlessness, stunned silence. 

Obama’s leadership, and possibly due to age, and the fact that he had children who were able to form and voice opinions, he dedicated resources to climate change, and proliferation of life treaties to ensure that his grandchildren or great grandchildren wouldn’t look at him one day and ask him why he didn’t do more.

Unfortunately The Final Year ends with startling reality, no glossy Hollywood movie ending, just stark truth and the election of Donald Trump.

The Final Year should really be seen, yes, I know, we all know the ending . . . and still to see the determination and diligence of those good times, and the global team effort to leave the world in a better place is worth it. And they did.

Magnolia Pictures will release The Final Year in theaters, On Demand, on Amazon Video and on iTunes January 19, 2018. See it.

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