This will be one of many reviews during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, to keep up with our latest coverage, click here.
We as a society are living in troubled times, a definite understatement to say the least. Meanwhile, the fact that it is an election year in the United States is likely not a coincidence when it comes to the latest documentary that retcons to a simpler times when things were arguably more normal, The Way I See It, an intimate depiction of the Obama administration from the perspective of the White House official photographer, Pete Souza (hence the title). Now it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone on this planet that there is certainly a stark contrast between that administration and this current one while perhaps these times only emphasize that. Though the political implications are clearly there and hard to ignore, the film is much more than that. It’s a collection of stories and anecdotes, told by a surprisingly soft-spoken Souza and the countless pictures he’s taken over the years based on his personal experiences as a photojournalist and as an integral member of the Obama administration who would later find his political voice as a unwitting critic of the current administration. It is also a hopeful portrait of what America was and what it could still be.
The Way I See It follows his career trajectory as a budding photojournalist, eventually becoming the White House official photographer during the Reagan administration. The period between his White House stints saw him remain a photojournalist while doing some freelance work and covering the war in Afghanistan. He may not have been cut out for the latter assignment but nevertheless, his passion was infectious to watch as his experiences led him to become the person he was. Despite advancements in technology, Souza still believed in the power of the photograph as a way to document history. The opportunity with the Obama administration was a great one thanks to its openness, offering him unprecedented access to all the big moments over the course of those eight years. Listening to Souza’s stories about his time with the administration and his relationship with Obama was engrossing, insightful, and surprisingly emotional. This continued after his time in the White House as he felt the need to publicly defend the office of the presidency against its current occupant in a fight that continues today.
In the end, The Way I See It is an engaging documentary with impeccable timing if only to serve as a temporary escape.
stills courtesy of Focus Features
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