For anyone that still believes in hope, democracy, and a fundamental goodness in people, The Final Year is an ode to those who’ve been displaced from a position to effect positive change by the current discourse of hate, ego, and violence.
It’s both heartbreaking and inspiring to see the three focal subjects of the documentary at work during their final acts of governing, hastening to leave the world in a better place than they found it. All of it is against the backdrop of a looming Trump presidency that no one involved thought was possible.
John Kerry, the former Secretary of State and a vocal Vietnam War veteran-turned-critic, displays his belief that progress can only be achieved through effort and a willingness to try in spite of potentially insurmountable odds. In this instance it’s an effort to bring about a ceasefire between Russian and Syrian forces and anti-regime rebels in Aleppo, Syria. The alternative, to do nothing, is not an option.
Samantha Power’s story is arguably the American story—an immigrant as a child who became the US Ambassador to the UN. A standout scene involves her recounting her story to a group of new immigrants who have gained citizenship. A striking image is of books on diplomacy topped with her children’s toys. The power of a mother explaining Boko Haram to her children.
Ben Rhodes is portrayed as the staffer extension of Obama. Both a friend and advisor but also a player in his own right. He took a lead role in the restoring of diplomatic relations and lifting of embargoes between the US and Cuba.
The documentary leaves you feeling a tangible sense of what is one of Obama’s oft quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s remarks “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
We see it stitched in the rug that blankets the floor of the Oval Office. It’s a line that leaves you with hope that its current occupant is a passing phase in the course of history, a history that, we are reminded, is far greater than any one person or event and is a history shaped by many choosing to do what is right.