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Life as an Obama Impersonator

Oct 30, 2014 | 580 videos
Video by Ryan Murdock

In this clip from the documentary Bronx Obama, filmmaker Ryan Murdock introduces Luis Ortiz, a Bronx native who hopes his uncanny resemblance to the president will lead to steady work as an impersonator. He first told Ortiz's story on an episode of This American Life in February 2012; he's spent three years documenting life as an imitator. The film, which won a "best of fest" selection at AFI DOCS this summer, delves into that surreal life to reveal what Murdock calls "a Faustian bargain"—Ortiz's manager pushes a racist caricature of the president, and often, he is treated as an punching bag.

"People encounter Ortiz and have the urge to act out their fantasy as if they were meeting the real Commander-In-Chief, but with none of the encumbrances of security, media, or even basic decorum," Murdock wrote in an email. "The fantasies come in all stripes—to wag a finger at "Obama" with disdain; to watch him sing and dance like a minstrel show, or, judging by Ortiz's Instagram feed, to snap a selfie that might make Michelle jealous."

Bronx Obama airs October 30 on Showtime at 7:30 p.m., EST. It's also available on demand: iTunes, Vimeo On Demand, Amazon Instant Video, and elsewhere.

Author: Chris Heller

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A showcase of short films curated by The Atlantic