'The Final Year': Director and Doc Subjects Talk Obama's Sendoff and Trump's Rise

Reuters; Courtesy of Passion Pictures
'The Final Year'

"I think I was pretty pessimistic about what was going to happen and I think it's been worse than I thought it was going to be," Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security advisor to Obama, said of Trump's election victory at a private screening.

On Friday night, CAA hosted a screening of The Final Year, a documentary which takes an intimate look at the last year of the Obama's presidency, with a focus on his foreign policy team.

The film showcases Ben Rhodes, who served as a deputy national security advisor to the president, and Samantha Powers, who was the United States ambassador to the United Nations, as they fly around the globe and strive to solve problems as diverse as the Syrian Civil War, the kidnapping of girls by Boko Haram and border and trade disputes with China.

They were both present for a Q&A after the film screening, and were candid when speaking about their experiences in the White House and their thoughts on Donald Trump.

One of the film’s most powerful scenes takes place on election night 2016 and shows the normally eloquent Rhodes physically unable to form a coherent thought in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s victory.

During the Q&A, he shared his opinion of the Trump administration, saying, "I think I was pretty pessimistic about what was going to happen and I think it’s been worse than I thought it was going to be."

Powers told the audience about Trump’s restrictive immigration policies,"A family that’s a refugee family, I’ve come to know so many of them, who thought their family members were coming from refugee camps surrounding Syria and then everything got halted."

Rhodes then spoke about the political policies that gave rise to Trump, noting that his election victory was "the logical end point of how the Republican party dealt with Obama.”

“There were Republicans who demanded that we intervene in Libya every day until we did. And then the day that we did, they were against it. And that was kind of sick," he said. "And that led to Trump."

The film ends by showing President Obama’s team on their final days in the White House, and with the president urging his staff to have hope as he speaks to the movement towards greater freedom and security.

Director Greg Barker spoke about capturing that moment: “It was extraordinary to see Obama, so soon after the election, saying to everybody that look at the big picture and the long road and somehow we will get through this. It was kind of extraordinary to witness up close.”