City Paper is not for tourists
Louis Ortiz, a big-eared Puerto Rican telephone technician from the Bronx, was an unassuming guy who’d blend into most crowds—until his doppelganger was elected leader of the free world. In 2008, Ortiz began traveling the globe as a Barack Obama impersonator, learning a new craft (acting) and getting used to a new lifestyle (living out of hotel rooms with a Bill Clinton lookalike) in a matter of months. He starts out small-time, hustling for tourist tips in Times Square and relishing in his nascent fame, but the gloss wears off when Ortiz signs with a demanding, borderline-abusive agent. What begins as a fun novelty flick turns stomach-wrenching as Ortiz hits the casino circuit, forced to deliver racist jokes at Obama’s expense to crowds of guffawing white conservatives. Bronx Obama ties together the rhetoric of Obama’s 2012 campaign with Ortiz’s personal struggles: A single dad with a teenage daughter on track to be the first college student in her family, Ortiz is invested in Obama’s promise to restore the American Dream. Is the money he earns on tour worth selling his dignity to be a proxy punching bag for haters of a politician he supports? The doc offers no easy answers, but it’s riveting to the end, when Ortiz and his White House twin both find reason to hope.