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In mid-July, an obscure film called "2016: Obama's America" opened in just one theater in Houston.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "2016: OBAMA'S AMERICA")
DINESH D'SOUZA: Obama has a dream, a dream from his father, that the sins of colonialism be set right and America be downsized.
RAZ: The film proposes that President Obama is weakening the country deliberately. Its co-director and star is conservative writer Dinesh D'Souza. He traveled to Hawaii, Indonesia and Kenya where he tests his theory. And this week, D'Souza's film could be seen in one of 1,500 theaters across America. Now, many critics have blasted the conspiratorial tone of the film, which D'Souza calls a documentary.
I spoke to him this week. Here's an excerpt of our conversation. And I first asked him to explain what he means when he argues that the president is trying to weaken America.
D'SOUZA: He wants America to have less wealth and power so that other people in other countries can have more wealth and power.
RAZ: All right. Let's assume that maybe some of your arguments are, in fact, true. Why would he be doing this?
D'SOUZA: Obama is an anti-colonialist. He has a dream, and it's the dream from his father. Anti-colonialism generally is based on the premise that the Western countries, and now the United States, have become rich by invading and occupying and looting the poor countries, so that the wealth of the world is unfairly distributed. And what Obama wants to do is correct that.
How do you correct it? You correct it ultimately by making sure that the previously colonized countries have better access to growth and power. And if there's a cost for that, you put the cost on the colonizers, in this case the United States.
RAZ: Let's go through some of the arguments you raise in the film because, of course, I have seen the film. And you seem to hold his background, his African father and his mother who was from Kansas originally, you seem to hold these things against him. President Obama's never hidden his past, where he comes from, his background. I wonder if that's fair. I mean, he doesn't have any control over who his father was or who his mother was.
D'SOUZA: Oh, right. I would not normally hold Obama accountable for the views of either his father or his mother had he not written a book detailing how influential his father and also to some degree his mother have been on him. So I'm simply only following Obama's story. Look, it's odd for Obama defenders to say, he's a multicultural guy, he's different, he's not like any president we've had before, and then say, well, but it's illegitimate to ask how multicultural he is, how different he is, in what way he is different from traditional Democrats like Clinton or Kerry or Carter or Dukakis.
I think Obama is different from traditional Democrats in that traditional Democrats want to redistribute income in America while Obama wants to realign America in the world.
RAZ: At several times in the film, we hear President Obama reading from his book, "Dreams from my Father," including a passage where he describes how he was attracted to left-wing students, to structural feminists and others, foreign students as a young college student. But you exclude the part of the book that explains how he eventually rejected those ideas. The whole point of the book is about his transformation. Why did you omit that?
D'SOUZA: I don't agree that Obama rejected the beliefs of his college years. It would be different if Obama had said as an adult, well, you know what, I had some crazy beliefs when I was a kid. I hung out with some unsavory characters, but I now reject all that. I've learned better. I've changed my mind. But Obama has never repudiated his book. He's never taken back the points that he made there.
RAZ: David Walker, the former head of the GAO, is interviewed in this film about the debt. I called him, and I asked him what he felt about it. He says that when he was asked to be interviewed, the film was misrepresented to him. Did everybody you interview know what this film was going to be about?
D'SOUZA: I think so. Now, look, the interview with David Walker was on a - on the specific topic of debt. And I don't attribute to David Walker the argument of the film, or even my view, that Obama uses debt as a form of global redistribution. So we don't misrepresent him in any way. He doesn't claim we do. And also, a film being a journey, there are people in the film who like Obama. You know, Alice Dewey, the anthropologist in the film, ended our interview by saying, hey, I hope Obama does get re-elected.
RAZ: Was she aware of what you were - the direction in which you were going? This is a professor at the University of Hawaii.
D'SOUZA: Right. We said we were making a film that was going to look closely at Obama's life and look at Obama's world and say what the world would look like if Obama were to be re-elected. And on that basis, she was quite happy to be interviewed.
RAZ: Dinesh D'Souza, if you wanted to criticize or attack President Obama, why bend the truth? Why not just offer a policy critique rather than conjecture, and in many cases in this film, conspiracy?
D'SOUZA: This is not a matter of conjecture. This is a matter of having an ideological hypothesis that comes right out of Obama's book. And by laying it forward, people who watch the film can make up their own mind.
RAZ: That's Dinesh D'Souza. His new film is called "2016: Obama's America." Dinesh D'Souza, thank you.
D'SOUZA: You're welcome.
RAZ: And you can hear our full unedited conversation at npr.org.
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