‘Bronx Obama’ weaves elegant tale across two lives


Photo by Google Images

Brayden Parker

In a country of more than 300 million people, it’s easy to go unnoticed.

Except if  you’re the President. Or … you look like him.

This is the premise of Bronx Obama, which ran tonight in the first full evening of the True/False Film Festival.

Imagine walking the streets of your town and going through your daily routine while resembling arguably the most powerful man in the world.  The looks would be uneasy, the mummers unsettling. Trying to carry out life with this distraction might be difficult and a burden. Unless, of course, you want to be someone else.

New Yorker Louis Ortiz, another guy off the streets of America’s largest city, finds himself in a situation that he shares with many other Americans in 2008: unemployed and broke. As a single father trying to care for his family, Ortiz searches for the solution and attempts to make life smoother.

Concurrently, a senator from Illinois attempts to break through to the White House; his plan to help save the United States and it’s people who are in the same boat as Ortiz. Their two stories are strikingly similar. Not only do Obama and Ortiz share the same dream, they share the same face.

Bronx Obama

And it’s this face that saves one of them.

As the film Bronx Obama unfolds, viewers ride along with Ortiz as he lives out his personalization of the “American Dream,” from the days in Nov. 2008 when he paraded through Times Square as a coincidental look-a-like to the transformed presidential impersonator in 2012.

After a year of unemployment and a night when his friends joke about his facial features and big ears, Ortiz decides to become the President. He’s hoping to make a quick buck or at least have some cash to provide for his daughter in the Bronx. Yet Ortiz doesn’t realize all the sacrifices that come with being somebody else and he has to find out how much its really worth.

What begins as a brief familiarization of the audience to the characters and their background, the story quickly gains pace as Election Day 2012 draws closer. Told using archival and recreated sequences of pre-2011 events (director and producer Ryan Murdock did not begin the project until 2011), as well as video shot by Murdock as he traveled with Ortiz throughout 2012, the film pieces together the obstacles that Ortiz must encounter and overcome in order to reverse his previous circumstances.

As one might expect, interviews are sprinkled in to enhance the story, but they are almost unnecessary as the emotions can be felt from the candid video that is used throughout the film.

In a film that at the surface appears to be related to the 44th President of the United States, it makes perfect sense that Barack Obama would be involved in the telling of Ortiz’s story. It would have been simple enough to explain the relation between Ortiz’s struggles to the President’s campaign centered around hope and renewal.

Murdock, however, lets President Obama create the relation himself. Using pieces of the President’s many speeches, Murdock weaves together words that resound with the mood of each sequence, vividly painting the portrait of Ortiz while using a speech that was intended to describe a nation. In what might have been the simplest of gathering quotes, Murdock transforms Obama’s rhetoric of hope, resurgence and resiliency to portray one man from the Bronx.

Ultimately Ortiz is left at a cross roads in his life. Traveling the country for an assortment of gigs as an impersonator he is never with his teenage daughter. But in a time where money is tight, separation may be the only solution. As the film concludes Ortiz continues to toy with this question that has been his driving motive since Barack Obama’s face first became the face of the nation. It’s the question that resounds throughout the entirety of the documentary as tragedy and comedy are intertwined.

And it’s the question that is placed in the minds of all who leave the theater following the film: What are we willing to pay for the realization of the “American” dream?

By Braden Parker

Did you see the movie? What did you think? Be sure to read our interview with Ryan Murdock, the film’s director and producer. Bronx Obama shows again at 2:30 p.m. Friday in the Picturehouse and at 3;30 Sunday in Big Ragtag.