Obama, Oz Contrasted in Gilbert's "There's No Place Like Utopia"

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Joel Gilbert, There's No Place Like Utopia

Joel Gilbert's latest documentary, THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE UTOPIA, is a two-hour coast-to-coast tour of America in decline. Using THE WIZARD OF OZ as a springboard, Gilbert draws comparisons from the Wizard -- a charlatan -- to President Barack Obama. Not being as complicated of a connect-the-dots as his previous work, DREAMS FROM MY REAL FATHER, UTOPIA is easier to follow, and more inventive in its employment of effects and its cogent use of parallel analogy.

As Gilbert, in dream state, traverses a yellow brick road, his journey to the promised "socialist utopia" takes him into contact with people like Dr. Jerome Corsi and David Horowitz. But it's just not those who preach the conservative message who get screen time. Gilbert also knocks on the door of Peggy Joseph -- famous for her celebratory appearance upon President Obama's first election for stating on camera that she didn't have to worry about her mortgage or car payment due to the Democrat victory, which gets contrasted against her feelings today.

Gilbert starts out lighthearted, interviewing costumed characters outside Grauman's Chinese Theater about who the Wizard was and why Dorothy was going to see him. Later, he infiltrates a protest over the government shutdown ensuing from the fight over Obamacare, where he passes himself off as "Barry Davis" while getting protesters to cop to feelings about socialism and utopia.

But as the film progresses, things take on a more serious tone. At the Lincoln Memorial, he interviews Chinese tourists about Socialism in China and their lack of freedom to speak against their government. From there he interviews former KGB operative and author, Konstantin Preobrazhensky, providing video and audio comparisons constantly to each Socialist talking point to draw a parallel to the Obama campaign or administration.

Perhaps the most sobering aspects of the film are when Gilbert visits the south side of Chicago, and Detroit. I'd heard often that Detroit was in decline, that it was deteriorating, but I hadn't seen the impact on the city like I have through this documentary. I felt as though I were being led through the ruins of Katrina (a sentiment Gilbert expressed himself shortly after I thought it). He asks questions of the residents who remain about how the city used to be, and what caused the decline. To a person, the blame seemed to be put upon the government. And to a person, they each avowed they would vote for the same candidate again, given the opportunity.

There are a lot more stops on this road show, including Newark and Denver, and some of the points could have been edited out with no message being lost. There's also the question of the effectiveness and even the rationale of a film of this nature, given that President Obama is in his lame duck term, or the necessity of putting First Lady Michelle Obama's speech clips in bubbles floating against a black and white tornado background (with the obvious allusion to Oz's witch).

Politically, I found little to disagree with. However, to draw my own parallel between the Wizard of Oz and President Obama, I would quote the Wizard himself, from the climactic scene of the Baum classic: "I'm a very good man. I'm just a very bad Wizard."

Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0