Director: Ryan Murdock
Saving Daylight Productions
Louis Ortiz was down on his luck, he’d lost his job – he was already a nobody. And then he found his best shot at becoming somebody was to become somebody else – he is the Bronx Obama of the title here; this is his story – an unemployed Puerto Rican father who picked the right time to shave off his goatee and saw Barack Obama’s face staring back from the mirror.
It’s not enough for Ortiz to pose for photos in a suit, to make appearances as the fake-Obama, in chasing the money he’s whisked off around the globe, pushed into an ugly comedic sideshow where he and a bunch of other political impersonators stage their own version of the campaign trail.
But Ortiz was never an actor or comedian and never got into this to become either of those things.
He’s wrestling with more than just that though – he’s at odds with the politics, and the other performers, he has a tyrant of a director who is unforgiving and revels in an almost cartoon-nastiness on camera. It’s a fascinating portrait of a very twisted version of The American Dream.
Bronx Obama is funny – but also a very thoughtful, moving account. Here is, after all, a guy who just wants a job, wants to get by, wants to make his daughter proud of him somehow. And it shows – in full ugliness – the drudgery of working the motel-life of cheap-budget touring; of schlepping about and giving so little of your own personality across in the performance too. It’s all an act – and even when it’s not a very good one it requires some strange sense of satisfaction, even when the pay-off seems barely ever worth it.
Sad, but hopeful. Audacious, spirited – it’s one of those weird and wonderful Documentary Gold subjects – the filmmaker clearly stumbling onto something special midway through shooting.