DAUK Film Night: Inside Obama’s White House: The Arc of History
was held on March 24, 2016 in London
An exclusive opportunity that showcased the preview of the final episode of the four-part Inside Obama’s White House the BBC Two series produced by the award-winning and highly acclaimed team from Brook Lapping documentary filmmakers, followed by a discussion with key members of this team.
Film Night Speakers
A short introduction to the Film Night
About President Obama
About The Filmmaker
The Film Night
As Barack Obama’s eight years as President drew towards their close, BBC Two and some twenty other broadcasters around the world have commissioned Inside Obama’s White House. The extraordinary challenges he had to overcome and the several occasions that he overruled his closest advisers are described in detail by those who worked in the White House.
This new four-part BBC 2 series which launches on 16 March comes from the Brook Lapping team which has produced multi award-winning documentary series, such as The Death of Yugoslavia, Watergate and Iran and the West.
With unique access to President Obama’s inner circle, the series takes the viewer inside the room where the big decisions were made.
This fourth episode covers the hunt for Bin Laden, the campaign for re-election in 2012 and key domestic events and issues in that second term – including Sandy Hook and guns, immigration reform, and race and criminal justice, including Ferguson and its aftermath.
The first three episodes deal with how Obama worked to stop an economic crisis from turning into a Great Depression, and to try to close Guantanamo, prioritizing his dream of universal healthcare. He also worked on promoting democracy as the Arab Spring engulfed the Middle East, and dealing with an Iran with nuclear capability.
From Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, Bill Daley, Jim Messina, John Kerry, Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, Kathleen Sebelius, Cecilia Muñoz, Phil Schiliro and many others we gain distinctive insights into the key events, issues and decision-making process.
In this critical election year, this event gave us the space to reflect upon the achievements of the Obama administration and the obstacles he faced.
When his staff were discouraged by setbacks, Obama told them: “The arc of history is long and this is going to happen. What you did today is part of the journey that’s going to get us there.” This is a message that inspired us in our 2016 campaign.
From Episode 4: The Arc of History – Obama bends the arc on guns and race:
“Even though I thought it was only 50-50 that Bin Laden was there, I think it’s worth us taking a shot.” is how Obama’ explained to his top advisers his extraordinary gamble, sending US special forces into Abbottabad, Pakistan. It worked. Boosted by the slogan “Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive” the president sought re-election. But his campaign nearly foundered when Sandra Fluke challenged the Catholic bishops – and Rush Limbaugh – on the issue of contraception. Forced to make a choice that could lose him either the church or the women’s vote, the President tells Health Secretary Sebelius: “Kathleen, I shouldn’t be fighting your battles.” Obama chooses right, mobilising his coalition of women, gays, African American and first time voters – while Romney gets it wrong.
Five weeks after the election, the Sandy Hook school massacre shook the nation. Obama called it “the toughest day of my entire time in the presidency”. He tried to take on the gun lobby – and lost. In his second term, the President also wrestled with America’s most intractable domestic policy issues: immigration and race relations. Confronted by an obstructionist Republican Congress and running out of time, Obama was forced to do what he could with Executive Orders.
About the film night speakers:
Paddy Duffy, Mick Gold and Norma Percy in the after-screening discussion
The Brook Lapping team
We had the opportunity to meet and discuss with some of the best political documentary filmmakers now working in the U.S.A .and U.K.
Norma Percy, Series Producer. New York-born Norma Percy has been a series producer of all the Brook Lapping histories which the 1995 BBC policy statement described as ‘virtually a new genre of documentary’ that retells momentous events from the recent past with meticulous objectivity and with the principal actors recording what happened.
A Guardian editorial, ‘In Praise of Norma Percy’ (February 2009) wrote: “Her documentaries stand out… most of all for the extraordinary range of people who agree to appear on them… Every significant international story seems to have its Percy film.” The 2nd Russian Revolution followed the fall of the Soviet Union. The Death of Yugoslavia traced the causes and consequences of the Balkan wars [followed by The Fall of Milosevic]. Two series, Elusive Peace and The 50 Years War, looked at the Israeli-Arab conflict, and the peace process that, ultimately, never succeeded. While Endgame in Ireland analysed how a conflict was resolved. Recent series include Iran & the West; Putin Russia & the West and The Iraq War.
Paul Mitchell, Executive Producer. Born in Boston Mass, Paul Mitchell has lived in the U.K. for 25 years producing award-winning films for the BBC, UK Channel 4, PBS, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and France Télévision. He has been responsible with Norma Percy and the company’s founder, Brian Lapping, for many of Brook Lapping’s award winning histories including The Death of Yugoslavia (BBC/Discovery, 1995) which won 16 awards, including a BAFTA, and is listed as one of the British Film Institute’s top 100 greatest British television programs of any genre ever to have been screened. Others are The Second Russian Revolution, Watergate, Iran & the West, Putin Russia & the West and The Iraq War. His most recent project Russia’s Open Book: Writing under Putin, on modern Russian fiction, broadcast on PBS last year.
He has also made programs as diverse as the award winning A Marriage of Power on the Clinton Presidency, The Alternative Rock & Roll Years about rock and roll in the USSR, and he was one of very few Western journalists to cover the frontline in the Chechen war with a PBS WideAngle: Greetings from Grozny (winner of the Edward R Murrow Award, the FIPA Prix de Jury de 15 ans, The Rory Peck Freelance Award). How Putin Came to Power was short listed for an international EMMY in 2003.
Listen to Norma Percy, Series Producer and Paul Mitchell discuss how they generated the series and gained access to President Obama and a ‘dazzling array’ of members of his administration, (beginning at 24-28 minutes in).
Paddy Duffy, Associate Producer.
Mick Gold, Producer/Director – Episode 4: The Arc of History. Also the film night speaker. As filmmaker please see below.
About President Obama
Excerpt from barackobama.com
Barack H. Obama is the 44th President of the United States.
Few presidents have walked a more improbable path to the White House. Born in Hawaii to a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya, Obama was raised with help from his grandparents, whose generosity of spirit reflected their Midwestern roots. The homespun values they instilled in him, paired with his innate sense of optimism, compelled Obama to devote his life to giving every child, regardless of his or her background, the same chance America gave him.
After working his way through college with the help of scholarships and student loans, Obama moved to Chicago, where he worked with a group of churches to help rebuild communities. In law school, he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, then he returned to Illinois to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago and begin a career in public service, winning seats in the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate.
On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States, winning more votes than any candidate in history. He took office at a moment of crisis unlike any America had seen in decades – a nation at war, a planet in peril, the American Dream itself threatened by the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. And yet, despite all manner of political obstruction, Obama’s leadership helped rescue the economy, revitalize the American auto industry, reform the health care system to cover another twenty million Americans, and put the country on a firm course to a clean energy future – all while overseeing the longest stretch of job creation in American history.
Background photo credit: US White House by Evangelina Rangel
About Mick Gold
Producer/Director – Episode 4: The Arc of History
Mick Gold was director of the Brook Lapping series Watergate, working alongside Norma Percy and Paul Mitchell, which won an Emmy and a DuPont Award. He was also a producer/director on the Brook Lapping series Endgame In Ireland (Peabody Award),Death of Apartheid( US title: Mandela’s Fight For Freedom) The Reagan Legacy, and Hostage (about the hostage crisis in Lebanon from 1984 to 1991).
He has also produced a variety of arts documentaries including six films for the BBC2 series Private Life of a Masterpiece. He directed four films for the Channel 4 series Dispatches, presented by Andrew Rawnsley, on politics behind the scenes in Westminster. He was series producer/director of Blues America, a two part history of the blues, broadcast by BBC4 in 2013.As a photographer and journalist, he covered rock music for Melody Maker, Let It Rock, Sounds, Time Out and Creem in the 1970s.
Background photo credit: US White House by Evangelina Rangel
Disclaimer: The screening of this film does not constitute an endorsement or promotion of the film, nor of any views expressed therein or any association with The Film Committee, DAUK, Democrats Abroad or the Democratic Party. Screenings are solely conceived as educational activities: offering an opportunity for members to discuss issues.
Links to other organizations or publications imply neither endorsement of their policies nor any association with the Democratic Party or Democrats Abroad – UK.