Friday 23 September 2011

Being cross with Trump

You’ve been Trumped, directed by Anthony Baxter (2011), screened at the Frontline Club, London, 12 August 2011

You may have seen it at one of the many documentary festivals it has wowed, in Sheffield, Edinburgh, Birmingham or Toronto. You may have seen it on the independent cinema circuit in the UK. But you won’t have seen it on TV, as broadcasters fret about the force of Donald Trump’s legal team. As with Pig Business, strong corporate legal teams prevent broadcast of good, important films.

If you haven’t seen it yet, do see Anthony Baxter’s You’ve Been Trumped. While not being as immediately gratifying as other documentaries like Man on Wire or When we were Kings it is a near perfect expression of its artistic form in that it is a bit rough; showing human reality, not a smooth processed product. But as a piece of journalism it is terrific. In all, it’s a film that is human, completely un-slick and natural, while being expressive of the cold facts.  It shows a machine that is almost the exact opposite of all the film itself is – a machine that is inhuman and so, so brand slick and almost completely fraudulent – and that machine is Donald Trump Inc.

This film shows Trump’s attempt at trying to develop an area of Scottish coastline that has been called Scotland’s own ‘rain forest’. A landscape of constantly evolving and shifting dunes,. It has taken millennia (4000 years) to formulate, and synergises with the local society of hamlets and villages. It is being destroyed this year by Trump’s plans for a golf course. Destroy things by all means, but destroy for something wanted or needed, that might be beautiful – but golf?! Another golf course in Scotland?! He is trying to re-brand the area as ‘The Great Dunes of Scotland Golf course’ while pouring thousands of tonnes of sand on those very dunes.

In short, the film shows the thoughtless ruthlessness of the development machine that is Donald Trump (expressed by Trump International Golf Links). It’s a story that shows ‘The Donald’ bulldozing his way through the protective barriers of any society. Those barriers in this case, are the mixture of local people, the rule of law, democratic politics, a unique environment and a fascinating history and society. In fact, the Scottish Government overturned its own environmental laws for Trump, he is building a hostel to house imported workers, so on and so forth. All of them are given away by weak, greedy and complicit Scots in positions of authority. They are craven to the billionaire, beyond belief.

It has often been claimed that this film shows a ‘David and Goliath’ contest – that maybe premature. Goliath hasn’t yet fallen, the golf-isation of this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) continues. To take the analogy one step further, it is this very film that acts as David’s actual slingshot, in giving the pebble missile-like strength that might topple Goliath. It is only now that the authorities (in politics, the media and the police) are sitting up and questioning their own actions. Only right now, when the film has won many awards, and they have seen this film. It was recently, just seven days ago, shown to Scottish Ministers and Alex Salmond.

It is this film that persists in asking the awkward questions. It shows the ‘little people’ – a small-hold farmer and fisherman, a woman happy to live in her cottage admiring her environment and her chickens and photographs of her late father and their community. These ‘little people’ have to defend themselves against the ‘big people’ – arriving in their private jet on a ‘state’ visit from America with bagpipes playing and doing V signs for a photocall, promising billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, while being hosted and congratulated by politicians, media and academia. ‘The Donald’ is awarded a doctorship at Aberdeen University while he cuts off locals’ water supply. So, maybe that is the last strand of Scottish culture and society that isn’t trumped –everything and everyone is bought, but a group of stubborn individuals refuse?

Being cross with Trump (as this film will make you) himself misses his point, he is a just a poker player ‘raising’ bigger and bigger; he should have been ‘called’, as you do in poker. Called by the law, politicians and the police. But Scottish culture, I suppose, doesn’t play poker. No one has called - even when his 6000 local jobs claim becomes just building a hostel for temporary Irish workers to do the job. And his promised luxury homes are put on hold.

This review doesn’t aim to add to the media chorus that is piping up about this film, ever since it was shown at Sheffield Documentary festival. This review’s aim is to look at the film from another angle – after watching the film and remembering Aristotle’s line about anger –‘to get angry is easy, but to get angry with the right person, in the right way and at the right time is very difficult and not many can do that’.  Being angry with Trump is wrong, is quixotic: being angry with Scottish politicians, media, academia, the Menie Estate (for selling to Trump without a protective covenant) and police is right, and might be effective. Most of all, be thrilled that there are films such as these being made.


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Resources

The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival

Internet Movie Database
IMDB - does exactly what it says on the tin

BFI
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BFI’s Sight and Sound
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They shoot pictures, don’t they?
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Barbican Film
Some of the most innovative films in town

ICA Film
Independent, political and art-house gorge-fest

National Media Museum
Not nearly as bad as it sounds

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