Charles S. Dutton is not one to hold his tongue in interviews and even, in movies that he writes. This is why, he likes to go the independent route—there are no rules to follow. Enter his latest film, The Obama Effect, starring Dutton, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Katt Williams, Gynn Turman and Meagan Good. The film is a satirical look at the 'Obamamania' that swept the nation in 2008 but also a rouse to inspire people to get involved with the upcoming election.
EBONY caught up with Dutton to talk about his inspiration for the film, his choice of Katt Williams to play a Republican, why right-wingers should be scared and why he feels Obama has had a harder time presiding over America than any president in history.
EBONY: Is The Obama Effect actually about Obama?
Charles Dutton: It’s a satirical look at the 2008 election. I say 'satirical,' because that can encompass both comedy and drama. But in essence, it’s about a man who worked for the Obama campaign in a local community capacity, in his own community and he becomes totally obsessed with getting Obama elected, because this historical moment—one he never thought he’d live to see—becomes the most important thing in his life, and it becomes such an obsession that he starts neglecting the other things in his life like his wife, his kids and his job. But through his obsession he gains a purpose in life and ultimately becomes a better husband, a better father and a better human being in general. He wasn’t a bad human being, he just go so wrapped up into this moment in history that he lost track of things and so the picture isn’t about Obama, it’s about recapturing what many people Black, White, young, old, Brown—all of that—that half of the country that underwent that euphoria, the passion and those emotions in seeing him elected.
EBONY: So, it’s not as much about the politics as the title may make people believe?
CD: The thing I’m most proud of in the picture is that we captured that moment. People leave the theater after seeing that movie saying, “I cried in this film, the same way I cried at home when I was awaiting the results,” and this has been in city after city and in premiere after premiere that I’ve sat through that people have come and said that we’ve captured that feeling. But also, it’s not just about capturing the positive side of the moment, but the polarization his candidacy had and the divisions in the country that his candidacy caused. We think it’s a good political film without being a political film.
Obama is still a politician and there’s never been a perfect president, so if I can levy some criticism of Obama’s campaign, he did promise the world.
EBONY: If your main character were a real person, would he still be as into Obama as people were the first time around?
CD: I’ll be honest, Obama is still a politician and there’s never been a perfect president, so if I can levy some criticism of Obama’s campaign, he did promise the world. There wasn’t one single thing that I can remember that he wasn’t promising. And I sat there, just like Colin Powell—who broke ranks in the Republican ranks and voted for Obama and said, “I wish he’d stop promising everything,” and I agree with him. Being a realist myself, as I’m sure Colin Powell was, we know he wasn’t gonna be able to deliver on hardly any of it. He did do a lot of things however, my criticism, once again is that the president really cant tout his own achievement in a slap me in my own back kind of style. It has to be someone in his administration and that’s where I think the Obama cabinet is sorely lacking, because they have allowed the republicans to shape the argument, to shape the standard, and to shape the outlook to shape the image and also to shape the achievement of Obama. And of course, if they’re going to shape the achievements perception-wise and image wise, then they’re gonna say he hasn’t done anything so the Obama cabinet has bee atrocious in getting the word out.
EBONY: What do you feel they should have put out there?
CD: There are the things that are obvious, like the health care bill, which will pass by that one vote and getting Bin Laden, but that was a three-day news event and then you didn’t hear about it anymore. It’s not that you want to spend time touting we killed someone but the fact of the matter was, had the Republicans did it we would be still talking about it today.
EBONY: So you’re saying the Democrats didn’t support Obama the way they should have?
CD: The Democratic Party as a whole has to grow some balls, in my opinion, and I say that all the time. MSNBC stands up for