Imagine waking up from a coma and finding out that one of the nominees in the 2016 presidential election was a thin skinned egomaniac, with a penchant for airing his racist, misogynist and ableist views (and a platform that allows for homophobic views to boot). Imagine if you found out that he’d already set a precedent for his appalling behaviour, yet he was still inexplicably marching towards success, planning to grab the American electorate by the pussy.
Having this news broken to you as your comatose body reanimates and prepares for a life in a new, quasi-dystopian future, is the only way you are likely to be shocked by any of Donald Trump’s antics. They have been generating headlines for so long, it is hard to imagine a world before his prejudices were dragged up into mainstream political conversation.
Unfocused and opportunistic
You’ve Been Trumped Too is pitched solely at the comatose viewer, as there is absolutely nothing in Anthony Baxter’s film that you won’t already be aware of. Instead of a Michael Moore-style election day rallying cry, we are merely treated to a Trump “greatest hits” package, interspersed with clips from Baxter’s two previous documentaries that dealt with the shady dealings of the Billionaire’s Scottish golf courses.
It is an opportunistic documentary that you’d usually expect a Republican filmmaker to produce about a Democratic nominee; turns out the filmmaking cluelessness really does reside on both sides of the fence. Baxter wants to make us angry about the fact Trump is headed towards the White House. The only problem is over a year’s worth of preceding news coverage has done that job for him in a more coherent manner.
The film is the third part in Baxter’s unofficial Trump trilogy, in which you can see his journalistic integrity and filmmaking abilities decline, just as Trump himself ascends towards the Oval Office. His 2011 film You’ve Been Trumped, a documentary about Trump’s illegal attempts to move elderly residents out of their homes so he can build luxury hotels at his golf course, arrived at a time where Trump’s comments weren’t making routine headlines.
When it aired on the BBC, it caused widespread outrage, and unfortunately, turned Baxter into Britain’s leading Trump documentarian, something he doesn’t have the insight to achieve. That initial movie was angry and passionate about highlighting the injustices caused by Trump, now the anger is there, but the passion and coherence are long gone.
Here, his line of questioning involves illegally crashing Trump rallies to question “The Donald” about the frail, 91 year old woman who has had her water supply shut off for four years because of him. When Baxter mentions this to Trump’s supporters, they don’t care, because he’s making America great again, not Scotland. The movie labours on for an underwhelming 87 minutes hammering these same points home, before arriving at an anticlimax filmed on the September weekend Hillary was publicly seen suffering from pneumonia.
A documentary without passion for the subject
The fact the movie ends so abruptly, at a point in time so soon to the cinematic release date, only highlights how opportunistic this movie is. Baxter’s previous exposes on Trump were excellent pieces of journalism, even if they were not significant technical achievements. His latest feels like a regurgitated Wikipedia page, that will anger nobody precisely because we already know its contents.
It exists mainly to cash in on the enduring public fascination with the billionaire; why else would it be dumped into the public consciousness so close to election day, like a batch of Wikileaks emails? For what it’s worth, the thin-skinned Trump has threatened to sue any American cinema that chooses to play Baxter’s movie. Although this is keeping with Trump’s character, it is also a poor decision as it merely highlights a badly made documentary that wouldn’t have received any stateside coverage anyway.
When it comes to filmmaking aesthetics, You’ve Been Trumped Too may very well be the worst film I’ve had to sit through this year. Even if you weren’t subjected to a man doing his best Michael Moore impression, before disappearing from the film entirely halfway through, this would be an objectively poor piece of documentary cinema.
Baxter repeatedly takes cheap shots to make his arguments heard, juxtaposing several Trump policy claims with footage of him contradicting his supposed beliefs- you know, the sort of thing that largely exists on a YouTube supercut somewhere. If that wasn’t enough, he overuses archive footage in a manner that suggests he is trying to bump up the running time to feature length. There is no reason for us to be subjected to a Ted Cruz RNC speech, or to relive any of the infamous speeches Trump has gifted society with over the past eighteen months.
The editing feels like that of an angry hack filmmaker, using all the tools in his arsenal to try and shock the audience by showing the contrasting nature of his subject’s beliefs through stock clips. It is the kind of lowbrow anger generation technique used extensively by Indian-American director Dinesh D’souza, who has released three pro-Republican movies in the last four years (his latest, Hillary’s America, is conveniently out now on DVD and Blu-Ray, just in time for November 8).
Not only does Baxter assume his audience is made up entirely of people alien to current events, but he also assumes they are easy to manipulate – he lays on more overbearingly melancholic score than Trump himself lays on fake tan.
There is an important film inside You’ve Been Trumped Too, one that focuses on the human cost of Trump’s moneymaking schemes via two emotive character studies. The problem is that Baxter refuses to give his subjects full attention and finds himself falling down a rabbit hole, ticking off a checklist that covers seemingly every Trump controversy and manages to say absolutely nothing on any of them.
This is an unfocused, opportunistic documentary that has nothing new to say, and the heartfelt things it does have to offer take a back seat in the process. You’ve Been Trumped? I definitely feel like it after being subjected to this colossal nothing of a movie.
Which political documentaries have had the power to change minds?
You’ve Been Trumped Too hits UK cinemas on November 4 and will stream live on Facebook in the US. How very timely indeed. All international release dates are here.
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