Film & TV

Dinesh D’Souza’s Four Rules For Making A "Successful" Documentary

With the release of the polarizing filmmaker’s latest documentary 'Death of a Nation,' we're breaking down his "winning" formula.
Reading time 4 minutes

You may recognize Dinesh D'Souza's name from his previous documentaries 2016: Obama’s America (2012), America: Imagine the World Without Her (2014) and Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party (2016)—documentaries that set the world abuzz with every release and the latter of which was the second highest grossing documentary to hit the box-office. Whatever the case, this filmmaker seems to have figured out the recipe for a successful documentary and his latest film, Death of a Nation, promises to be no different. Let's see what that might be.

Rule 1

Portray yourself, the filmmaker, in a serious and academic way. Just shrug on a long, mysterious coat (à la Bogart) and take a contemplative stroll through the streets, stopping here and there to look up at the sky and admire your surroundings. If that isn’t enough to convince audiences that you’re important, a rolling commentary will have the added benefit of literally telling them what to think.

Take, for example, Death of a Nation. Watch as D’Souza (doning a long, dark winter coat) strolls through Berlin and looks up at monumental relics from the Third Reich while, over the speakers, he lays out the legal statues of Nazi Germany: “money lenders and profiteers punished by death, state control of media and the press, seizure of land without compensation, state control of religious expression…this reads like something jointly written by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders!” Does it truly read like that? If this clearly important man says so, then it probably does.

Rule 2

Intersperse your film with staged re-enactments by actors. This will save you from finding actual footage to support what your commentary is saying. The script doesn’t have to be well written and the actors don’t even have to be talented, what matters is that, if audiences can visualize and hear a concept or a fact taking place, the more easily they can be convinced that it’s true. D’Souza is a big fan of this technique and has used it extensively in each of his films.

For Death of a Nation in particular, he hired actors to recreate the unwarranted and extreme hardships that Abraham Lincoln underwent at the hands of the Democrats during the Civil War.

Cutting between these fictional scenarios and actual footage of Donald Trump being lambasted by the liberals of today, this proves to be an efficient technique in convincing viewers that Trump, like Lincoln, is a martyr who is just trying to make America great again.

Rule 3

Which brings us to his third rule: it’s important to include expert opinion and interviews with people who know about the subject of your film, or else have very strong feelings about it. Even if they directly contradict what you’ve previously said, their presence alone will add some credibility to your production. D’Souza, for example, interviews Richard Spencer in his latest film. An expert in white supremacy, Spencer explains how the National Socialists were not as conservative as many have portrayed them to be and that, in fact, the current Democratic party is more fascist and destructive than they were.

Rule 4

The last and perhaps more important tip is this: whether or not your film really is a documentary, make sure it is categorized as a documentary. Calling something a “documentary” has the incredible power to legitimize the content of your production, assuring viewers that what you’re telling and showing them can be trusted—even when it can’t be. With so many documentaries on streaming platforms and an increasing willingness for cinemas to show documentaries on the big screen, never has the medium had as much power to influence the minds of many.

Death of a Nation is in theaters now.

related posts

Recommended posts for you