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#TIFF20 Review: The Way I See It (Special Events)

September 10, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Pete Souza, the former White House photographer for both Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan, shares his story in the documentary The Way I See It. A behind the scenes figure who previously kept quiet about his own political leanings, Souza became more vocal in the wake of Donald Trump being elected as the presidential successor to Obama, and gained fame on social media when he started “throwing shade” by posting pictures of Obama with cheeky captions in response to Trump’s tweets.

Directed by Dawn Porter, who also made the newly released political documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble, The Way I See It is a polished and easily accessible film that serves as a fine portrait of Souza and his work as a photographer. Having worked for both an iconic Republican and a beloved Democrat, he brings with him a unique perspective, as well as an innate understanding of the inner-workings of the White House and what it takes to be a good president.

While Souza admits that he wasn’t really a fan of Reagan’s policies, he still professes admiration for his stately leadership qualities. It’s an opinion that he doesn’t share about Trump, whom he feels compelled to speak out against, especially in comparison to Obama. Serving as a companion piece to his coffee table books Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents and Obama: An Intimate Portrait, The Way I See It follows Souza as he goes on a speaking tour in support of the two works.

Throughout the film, the soft-spoken photographer wistfully shares memories of his time in the Obama administration, and the little moments that he was able to capture on film, ranging from an impromptu basketball game and a snow day that Obama spent with his two daughters. Souza even had his own wedding in the Rose Garden, which the Commander in Chief decided to officiate.

Souza keeps highlighting the 44th President’s ability to connect with people on a personal level, but the film is as much about the importance of the still image as it is about adding to the mythmaking around Obama. Souza views the close access that he got to both Reagan and Obama as vital from a historical standpoint, providing valuable documentation of their respective times in the Oval Office. Souza talks with a mournful tone about how Trump doesn’t allow his own photographers the same level of access, opting instead for official photoshoots rather than having them with him at pretty much all times.

Souza captured some of the defining images of Obama’s presidency, so his work certainly is of great value, and Porter does a fine job of putting that into perspective in this film. If at times heavy-handed with its musical choices, The Way I See It is an enjoyable and surprisingly poignant documentary that serves as an engaging snapshot of Souza’s work.

After playing at the festival, The Way I See It will be opening in Toronto theatres on September 18th.

Barack Obama and Pete Souza in The Way I See It

Public Screenings:

Friday, September 11th – 6:00 PM at Bell Digital Cinema (Online for 24 Hours)

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