Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Way I See It Review: An Eye Into The Presidency Through Still Photos

Release date: September 18, 2020
Running time: 100 minutes
Starring: Pete Souza, Barack Obama

Inspired by the New York Times #1 bestseller comes Dawn Porter’s The Way I See It, an unprecedented look behind the scenes of two of the most iconic Presidents in American History, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan, as seen through the eyes of renowned photographer Pete Souza.  As Official White House Photographer, Souza was an eyewitness to the unique and tremendous responsibilities of being the most powerful person on Earth.  The movie showcases these two men--though spends more time on Barack Obama than on Reagan--then reveals how Souza transforms from a respected photojournalist to a searing commentator on the issues we face as a country and a people.

The Way I See It is an interesting look at the presidency.  Many of us have seen the most recognizable photographs from Barack Obama's time in office, but hearing the backstory from Pete Souza helps a lot to frame them.  There are so many little touches that made Obama the president that he was, and hearing those recounted from the person that was with him the most is truly a special experience.  Obama had so many monumental decisions and crises during his eight years in office, and getting just a glimpse of how he made those is a rare treat.  You will notice that I am spending a lot of the review on Obama, and that is because the Obama presidency is the main thrust of this film.  Although the Souza's time with Reagan is a very important period, and one that helped to frame his experience and how Reagan dealt with the presidency and the public, the film only spends some early time on Reagan before spending the majority of its time focused on the Obama years.  And through this lens it shows the public Obama in many phases, as president but also as a family man, husband, father, and human being .

The Way I See It is a good documentary on the power of photography and the dual use of photographs for public and historical purposes.  In a time when video is rapidly overtaking photography for capturing moments and communicating important points, the images shown in this documentary really highlight how powerful photography still is as a medium.  The images of some of Obama's most important decisions are a truly powerful reminder of everything that went on during his eight years in office.  It also does a great job of reminding everyone how special Obama was as a president, and the very different times we are currently living in.  There are subtle and overt hints at this, such as the fact that the current official White House photographer does not have free access to the president and how many of the images coming from the current administration appear to be staged specifically for the camera.  The level of access with Obama was unprecedented and this led to some truly remarkable pictures and human moments.  The last part of the film highlights Souza's move from an observer of the presidency to a critic of the current president.  It definitely has a political bent, but makes important observations about the current administration and some of the statements that have come from it.  The timing of the release is not a coincidence as this film is definitely geared towards energizing people for change.  But often the way it does this is subtle, through simple images that tell their own story rather than a dressed up version of reality.

The Way I See It highlights the power of photography and the unprecedented access that Souza was given during the Obama presidency, and visually shows the stark differences between Reagan, Obama, and Trump.  The Way I See It is in theaters on September 18 and will also be shown on MSNBC on October 9. 

Watch it.

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