Posts Tagged ‘Trump’

The Brink (2019) ***

DIR: Alison Klayman | US Doc 98′

Alison Klayman shadows political operative Steve Bannon from the time he leaves the White House to the 2018 midterms.

Political strategist Steve Bannon (1953-) is best known for being the co-founder of Breitbart, and is also a former investment banker, educated at Georgetown and Harvard. He served in the United States Navy for seven years and then went on to exec produce 18 Hollywood films, between 1991 and 2016. Thereafter he was the White House chief strategist from January to August 2017, and founder of nonprofit organisation The Movement designed to promote economic nationalism in Europe. Eventually he was ejected from the White House after the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Not as informative and intriguing as Errol Morris’ American Dharma that screened at Venice  last year, this fly on the wall affair manages at least to avoid glorification, hardly bringing anything new to the table – although Bannon clearly had his knees firmly under the metaphorical one in the Whitehouse during the early stages of the Trump administration.

Klayman’s (Ai Wei: Never Sorry) cinema vérité style treatment is the result of her following Bannon as part of his elite during the course of a year’s media tour intended to rebrand his image as the leader of a global populist movement. A strong and engaging orator (in the style of Ken Livingstone, Gladstone and Nigel Farage) he is clearly clubbable, and we see him taking his movement on the road, talking to various advisors on how best to support congressional candidates, and showing his support to European populist parties – including Farage’s – in preparation for the European Parliament elections in 2019.

In Europe there’s obviously the high birth rate among Muslims to consider (in Belgium), and these far-righters all agree that “immigration is a bad thing”. Bannon then sets off on a US tour, promoting Republican candidates such as Roy Moore, and those running in the 2018 midterms. This involves attending fundraiser dinners and rallies. A heckler interrupts him during a speech and he smirks, “Who invited my ex-wife?” Klayman intercuts all this with news clips from the Brett Kavanaugh hearing to the Tree of Life shooting. He keeps on keeping on. He also talks to journalists, who seem to have a low opinion of him. Meanwhile, his film TRUMP @WAR (the media) is released, about the President’s victory in the face of the violent left.

The Brink is another documentary about the general mayhem that exists in US politics, focusing on one extreme figure to another (Weiner and Get Me Roger Stone). Klayman avoids talking head interviews but there’s no mistaking her take on her subject matter.

Very much like Brexit for the UK, the Trump era is a thorn in America’s side. And The Brink tries to analyse how it all came about, but without much success. Basically politicians see themselves as in the game for the love of humanity, despite the majority of them being self-seeking, bottom-feeding forms of life. In Dante’s journey to Hell, Klayman is simply trying to explore some of the characters on the way. MT



Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018) ****

Dir.: Michael Moore; Documentary, USA 2018, 128′.

Michael Moore has reversed the figures of his earlier documentary feature that focused on the Twin Tower attack Fahrenheit 9/11. 11/9 refers to the date in 2016 when Donald Trump was elected as President of the Unites States of America. This latest is an in-depth analysis of Trump’s past and present but also a future devoid of democracy due to the over-whelming power of the corporations.

And the Democrats don’t get an easy ride in this incendiary examination of US politics: Moore also  rubs Hilary Clinton’s nose into the debacle: on the day before the elections, super-confident, she thanks Beyoncé/Jay Z for their appearance at her rally, and also applauds rappers, whose names she has never heard off. Next comes a reminder that Trump has always played out his corruption and scandals in plain view of the public, but always seems to get away with it. Ditto also appears to have had an inappropriate relationship with his daughter daughter Ivanka – during all stages of child and adulthood. But then again, everyone was made aware of it. Then Moore starts criticising himself: clips from his TV appearance on the Roseanne Barr Show with Trump, the latter praising “Roger & Me”. And Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner even threw a premiere party for Moore’s “Sicko”, because he too liked it so much.

Moore then veers off to his home town of Flint, Michigan (the state Trump won by a whisker). In April 2014, Governor Rick Snyder (R), had called a “State of emergency Management”, dismissing all elected state representatives, and replacing them with his cronies, mostly from the corporate sector – without ever giving any reason for the so-called emergency. Flint got his fresh water from Lake Huron, but Snyder had ordered a new (superfluous) pipeline to be built, and during the time of the construction, water for Flint was pumped from the polluted river which gives the town its name. Thousands of, mainly black, children suffered lead-poisoning, 12 died of Legionnaires disease, but Governor Snyder insisted that the water was safe. Later President Obama visited the stricken town, tasting the water publicly, but only putting his lips to the rim of the glass. Townspeople, who had welcomed his arrival, later damaged a mural in his honour: trust in political institutions in the poorest community of the USA was gone.

Moore concludes with a call to arms, to uphold basic democracy. He also questions whether democracy really exists in the USA, or indeed whether it has ever existed in the across the country. The Snyder example in Flint shows how even the most basic of democratic rights can be circumvented: during a recent TV appearance Trump has already asked the public whether he should  do away with the 2020 election, if a majority of them is in agreement. It seems that this is already a foregone conclusion in Russia and communist China, so why not the USA? For those who don’t support Trump the outlook is grim: Just like Orwell’s Big Brother, Trump urges the people of his country not to always believe what they see and read. Slightly unwieldy, and certainly too long, Fahrenheit 11/9 is still valuable. AS


The King (2018) **** DVD release

Dir: Eugene Jarecki | US | Musical Biopic with Alex Baldwin, Ethan Hawke, Ashton Kutcher, Lana Del Rey, Emmylou Harris | 109′

Using Elvis Presley’s life as a metaphor to explore America’s modern malaise from so-called dream to disaster, Eugene Jarecki’s Sundance Grand Jury Winner heads across the States for a musical mystery tour in the legendary star’s vintage Rolls Royce, four decades after his life as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century ended in a heart attack, aged 42.

Although Jarecki adopts a novel approach to the life of the legendary singer and entertainer, the results are sprawling, spirited and great fun in a biopic that gazes deep into the soul of a nation in flux and features an eclectic cast of stars and well known places from Presley’s birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi, to Graceland, Memphis, Las Vegas and New York.

Enlivened by archive footage, musical interludes and enlightening observations from Ethan Hawke and Alec Baldwin, ex-band members and those associated with Presley’s life, Jarecki cleverly draws a comparison between the star and President Trump  showing how these two  transformative figures made a terrific impact on the US culture. In Presley’s case his musical style created a bridge to ease racial tension which sadly ended in disappointment, particularly in the southern states, due to the pursuit of financial above humanitarian goals (Presley always chased the money in his career choices, and when once purportedly asked by President Reagan whether he would choose a new swimming pool or to help kids with AIDS, he went for the swimming pool). On the face of Jarecki’s seems like an inspired and persuasive viewpoint: whether it stands up beyond this cursory glance, remains to be seen and sometimes his approach feels as it Elvis has been slotted in to meet the needs of his argument. 

Needless to say, the musical soundtrack is astonishing (shame the excerpts are so short) and Jarecki’s wide angle images of the glittering skylines and sweeping landscapes of Route 66 make this an enjoyable romp as well as an informative biopic of the “King of Rock and Roll” MT

ON DVD FROM 1 October 2018


EmiSunshine and The Rain; Leo “Bud” Welch; STAX Music Academy All-Stars John Hiatt; Loveful Heights; Immortal Technique; The Handsome Family; Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers; M. Ward ; Justin Merrick and the STAX Academy All-Stars; Lindy Vision; Robert Bradley



Our New President (2017) ICA LONDON

Dir. Maxim Pozdorovkin, Russia/USA, 2018, 77 mins, English and Russian with English subtitles
Ever since a fateful visit to a mummy’s glass-encased tomb in 1997, Hillary Clinton has been plagued by fainting spells, drug use, and even allegations of sexual abuse and murder. Don’t believe it? Just ask the reporters at Vesti and NTV, two of the most-watched state-run news shows in Russia, where outlandish stories like these reach millions of viewers every night.

As more details of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election emerge, acclaimed filmmaker Maxim Pozdorovkin assembles a fever dream of Russian propaganda aimed at both Clinton and Trump from YouTube, RT, and other media platforms. Within this alternate universe of misinformation, we witness the seeds of the 2016 fake news cycle take root and successfully infiltrate the collective conscience of a Russian populace trained to distrust truth and objectivity.

The divisive stories peddled by these journalists, handpicked by Putin, range from sinister to absurd, but they all point to a coordinated effort to alter public opinion at home and abroad. COURTESY OF THE ICA.

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