Film Profile | ‘The Choice 2012’ turns politicians back into people
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 08:10
Directed, written and produced by award-winning producer Michael Kirk, “The Choice 2012” depicts two men reaching for the same sovereign title from two drastically different backgrounds. Of course, these two contenders aren’t new to the political sparring arena: They are none other than President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
From heavy-hitting investigations of the 2008 financial meltdown and the current conflict in Syria to specialized reports on the marijuana market in California and American high school football culture, PBS’s “Frontline” delivers high-quality journalistic reports that push boundaries and compel audiences.
“Frontline’s” reputation precedes it, and it’s hard to imagine a televised news source better equipped to cover the upcoming presidential election.
To say that these two presidential frontrunners vary in their party alignment and views on public policy would be like calling the ocean damp.
Rather than rehashing other media outlets’ campaign coverage, “The Choice 2012” focuses on a facet of this election that, excluding the occasional soundbite, have not previously been analyzed in depth.
Namely, this Frontline piece endeavors to carefully and empathetically analyzes the candidates’ characters and personal backgrounds.
“We knew the documentary was going to air at an [important] time during the election [season],” co-producer Mike Wiser said. “We wanted to be able to step back and look at who are the men who are running for president. Who are they? Where are they coming from? What do they believe?”
In the documentary, Romney, the Republican candidate from Massachusetts, is portrayed as a son inspired to fill his father’s shoes who, in his zeal to do so, outgrew them. On the flip side, President Obama is depicted as a young man constantly searching for his identity and forced to forge his own path — a path that led to his political rise and personal self-discovery.
Mitt grew up with a well-to-do family in an America where hard work, perseverance and determination paid off with a spot at the top of the economic ladder. He idolized his father, George Romney, who paved the way for the Mormon population to enter the political world as insiders.
Romney’s father was the chairman and president of the American Motors Corporation, served as Michigan’s governor and was selected as President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. According to the documentary, Romney was right at his father’s side during each of these career successes, attentively absorbing each word and lesson.
Romney’s entrepreneurial mindset and his successes at Harvard Business School made him a catch for Bain & Company, a prominent consulting firm. Each deal he made struck gold time and time again, and Romney eventually became the CEO.
He later formed Bain Capital, an investment shoot-off of Bain that has acquired bad press recently for its investment failures.
Frontline draws several conclusions for its viewers about Romney and how he envisions his role at president. His ideas for fixing the country draw from his experience as a businessman. His dedication to Mormonism has instilled within him a desire to better those who surround him.
And as George Romney’s son, he has grown up not only compelled to please his father, but also to overcome the expectations set for him.
Unlike Romney, Obama never had a strong father figure in his life. His mother was an 18-year-old white woman and his father, a governmental economist from Kenya, was essentially absent for the entirety of Obama’s childhood. After living with his mother and her second husband in Indonesia, 10-year-old “Barry” Obama was sent to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents. With few strong role models and a biracial background, Obama struggled to find his identity during his adolescent years.
Obama spent a few years at Occidental College in Los Angeles, but later transferred to Columbia University in New York. There, he began his process of self-discovery. Living on the edge of Harlem, Obama was profoundly affected by the poverty that existed around him; he grew more focused and serious. His time in New York was the “key to his life,” as it set the stage for his entrance into politics.
After earning a degree from Harvard Law School, Obama became a state senator of Illinois, then a US senator and, ultimately, the 44th President of the United States.
The “Frontline” documentary shows viewers the evolution of Obama as a man and a politician. In 2008, he campaigned strongly on the platform of bipartisanship. He felt he could bridge the gaps between red and blue and transcend their differences in favor of a cohesive America.
After wrestling with identity issues for the majority of his life, Obama finally came to see himself as a unifier and a leader. Unfortunately, however, his hopes for bipartisanship were dashed during his first term.