Briefing Notes No 41
Inside Obama’s White House: Episode Four: The Arc of History
March 24, 2016
After-screening panel discussion and Q and A with Norma Percy, Mick Gold and Paddy Duffy from Brook Lapping, with Bill Barnard, DAUK as moderator.
About the filmmakers and their approach to making documentaries:
The Brook-Lapping team and Norma Percy, in particular, are renowned for their creation of a new genre of documentary making. They aim to make television programs that take the viewer “behind the closed doors where the big decisions are made”. And as Norma Percy and Paul Mitchell explained in a recent Talking TV interview, their distinctive approach is to give those people who were in the room “a chance to tell their story…to just say what happened.”
The interviewees are not asked to “do analysis or predict the future.” In their documentaries, there are no “historians, journalists or experts” commenting; the filmmakers “don’t have opinions or point fingers…just get people to tell us what happened when big decisions are made”. This is one of the reasons that they have been so uniquely successful over so many years in gaining access to a dazzling array of people from all sides who are directly involved in the major issues of the day.
They build their films using interviews and archives: the former “to find out what people said at the meeting” and the latter to “make you feel like you’re seeing the meeting. ” The archives also serve as a research tool, for example, to identify more people who were ‘in the room”.
From Brook Lapping have come documentaries such as The Second Russian Revolution, Russia, Putin and the West, The Death of Yugoslavia, The Iraq War, Iran and the West, Watergate, Endgame in Ireland, and Death of Apartheid
Such is the significance of their work that a Guardian editorial in 2009 noted that “Every significant international story seems to have its Percy film. Reviewing this series last week Mark Lawson in The Guardian declared that “Future historians should put up statues to Lapping, Percy and their colleagues for the astonishing fact-bank they have established.”
Obama’s legacy and the challenges he faced:
With nine months remaining in his tenure, President Obama faces intensive scrutiny and debate about his accomplishments and legacy.
Two landmark achievements in his first term are clear: the avoidance of economic depression and the recovery of the economy and the passage of the Affordable Care Act. But, as Michael Grunwald in Politico points out: “…it’s remarkable how often Obama has gotten what he wanted, in many cases
policies that Democrats (and sometimes moderate Republicans) have wanted for decades, and how often those policies have slipped under the radar.”
With a combination of legislation and executive action, President Obama has achieved change in areas that profoundly affect Americans and the world in: civil liberties and equal rights (e.g. LGBT repeal of DADT and support for same-sex marriage; equal pay for women—Lily Ledbetter), foreign policy (troop withdrawals, nuclear agreement with Iran, normalisation of relations with Cuba), economic security (e.g. reforms to student loan and consumer credit; banking, auto industry); environmental protection (e.g. carbon limits and support for renewable energy) as well as in education and immigration.
Republican Party policies, power and devotion to obstructionism thwart and threaten all progressive efforts and gains.
2016 Elections: Opportunities and challenges
We not only have a choice of two great candidates, but we now have a realistic opportunity to re-take the Senate and gain seats in the House. But that requires unprecedented commitment!
The information and sources provided as well as the views expressed here reflect
neither the views of DAUK or the Democratic Party nor their endorsement of, or association with them.