Thursday, August 2, 2012

Announcing the Donald Trump memorial: Anthony Baxter's YOU'VE BEEN TRUMPED!

Perhaps you'd heard of the new golf course Donald Trump was building in Scotland? TrustMovies may have, but he tends to blot out as best he can any reference to Mr. Trump that may crop up to muddy his day. As he has followed the Trump career over the decades, he has come to the realisation that when medical science at last perfects that enormously necessary and long overdue operation, the sleazectomy, Mr. Trump should be among the first Americans to claim its benefits. Movie viewers who take in the new documentary YOU'VE BEEN TRUMPED from novice Brit/Scot filmmaker Anthony Baxter will no doubt agree, as their ire rises by the minute, watching Trump's latest boondoggle take shape: a golf course-cum-resort to be built on (and via the destruction of) some pristine, environmentally-protected coastal land in Scotland.

Fortunately Mr. Baxter (shown at right), unlike myself, knows how to keep his anger under wraps. He simply points his camera and lets "the Donald" do the rest. This works like the proverbial charm. From the early press conference in which Trump and his people lie bare-facedly to the camera about how environmentalists are all in favor of this land-grab (no actual environmentalist is or was) and how a poll taken of the local population found them overwhelmingly "pro" project (the BBC later investigated to find that no poll was ever undertaken), to the hundreds of jobs that will be provided to locals via the project, to what happens when work actually begins, nothing appears to be as expected or promised. But when Trump and crew begin demonizing the locals whose homes (near the land slated for the golf course) he wants to get rid of, things really grow ugly.

We get to know a number of these folk (above and below) along the way, and they seem as genuine and worthwhile as Trump and his project seem fake and worthless. That these people have no one, save the filmmaker, to champion their cause, makes that cause seem especially important.

Mr. Baxter wisely keeps himself out of the picture -- until an event takes place in which he must change his modus operandi. It seems the water has been suddenly turned off in all these homes, and no one will fess up to how and why this has happened. When Baxter and his assistant try to get to the bottom of it, in totally legal and even polite fashion, they are arrested by the local police, below.

As is happening in so many countries across the western world, governments are falling into bed with those who possess the most money and power. (That clearly happened in Scotland, so I hope as I write this, that some investigative reporter is "following the money.") The results are pretty much the same all over; only the specific place and project seem to change.

Worse, but of course to be expected, the media follow right along, taking in and reporting lies as truth so that the populace at large imagines things are going along swimmingly. Only those closest to and most affected by these projects (Battle for Brooklyn, anyone?) see them as they are. But there seems to be no one, save an occasional filmmaker, to represent these few -- who are actually the many, most of whom have not yet awakened to this fact. This may be the prime reason why the Occupy movement came into being.

Along the way we see quite a bit of footage from that internationally popular Scottish movie of 30 years ago, Local Hero, and we meet a terrific young artist who creates a show to be housed in the barn of one of the local buildings that Trump wants to bulldoze. And when the supposedly prestigious local university decides to give Trump an honorary doctorate, we meet a fine teacher and professor (above) who renounces his own "earned" doctorate in protest of this bit of ridiculous "theater."

For all its entertainment value (and it is terrifically entertaining), You've Been Trumped catalogs a sad and depressing event that has no happy ending (see the interview below). But that's precisely why experiencing it is so important. The movie, from International Film Circuit and running 95 minutes, opens tomorrow, Friday, August 3, in New York City at the Angelika Film Center, and in Los Angeles area on August 17 at the Laemmle Playhouse 7.

TrustMovies met with Anthony Baxter, shown below, the week prior to his film's release and got about 20 minutes with this new filmmaker. Below is a transcript of most of what was said, with TM appearing in boldface and Baxter in standard type....

No documentary I've seen has made me angrier than yours--

(He laughs) Sorry about that!

Of course that's the point.  I have long found Mr. Trump one of the sleaziest people around. To my mind, at least, he keep succeeding on failure, if you know what I mean. I am not sure how economically viable any of his project really are.


Your documentary for me is going to stand as Trump's real memorial -- more than anything else he's been involved with: Atlantic City, Trump Tower -- or this new golf course.  


My big question is what has happened, now, with this project?

Basically what's happend now is that the first golf course has opened just a couple of weeks ago. All the residents are still there, but they have big mounds of earth next to their houses, and they can't see out. And there is a car park being built right where the dunes were originally. But none of the infrastructure has happened yet so none of those promised jobs have been created.  All the infrastructure that is supposed to bring all the jobs has not happened. Which is the tragedy of the thing.

That-- and the environemnt.  You knew that was probably going to be the case?

Yeah -- well, I think that was the thing. These ludicrous claims of jobs that were going to happen.

Not to mention those ludicrous claims from the supposed environmentalists saying that this was a great project. That struck me as most ludicrous.

There were no environmentalists in favor of this project. Everybody was against it. Yet Trump said he had great support.

But he can't be nailed to the wall to give the names of these environmentalists? 

There aren't any names. He is so used to having a media that will report what he says as fact -- when it is clearly not. He talks about a poll that says that 93% of the people are in favor of this project. We know for a fact that this poll was never done. BBC did an investigation and found that this poll never happened. Yet the media still published that figure. And it is so ridiculous.

Some of us who are older can remember a time when these bald-faced lies would never be stated like this, publicly in the first place, and then be reported by the media as truth. But these days, it happens all the time. 

That's the real problem we have. This story is not alone, of course; it is happening all over the world. From Scotland to NYC to Arizona. We showed this film in Croatia -- in Dubrovnik -- and people told us there that a developer there was doing the very same thing. There is a real powerlessness among the people because it seems that there is one rule for the ordinary people and another for the wealthy and powerful.

And unfortunately governments are going with the super rich. All I can assume is that they are being paid off.

Well, it does seem extraordinary, doesn't it -- that if you have money and power, you get what you want. Susan Monroe (shown at right), one of the local residents, wanted to alter the chimney on her house. She had to meet with the planning commission three times and was turned down every one of them. Then comes Donald Trump, who gets whatever he wants!

Susan was the middle-aged chain smoker, right?

Yes. Lovely woman!

Such interesting people in your film. You really come to like them and root for them. They are extraordinary people.

They are. And now the Trump ad his organization are calling these people a national embarrassment for Scotland. But I think they are an inspiration. They are inspiring by the way that they stuck up for the land and the environment. And with such dignity!

Yes, more dignity that Trump will ever have in his litle fingernail.  Have you seen the doc Searching for Sugar Man?

Yes. A beautful film.  I was really blown away by that one.

In its way, it puts forth such a wonderful picture of a genuine hero. 

Ummm! Ummmm!

The word hero is never used in the film, I think, and the man at the center of the film, Rodriguez, would never use it to describe himself, but he is a living example of someone we who we can really look up to. Rather than at Donald Trunp.  Now, you were the guy in the movie getting manhandled by the police, right?

Yes, I never expected to be in the film. And then suddenly here we are. When that happened, well, we were simply trying to get at the truth of why the residents' water was turned off. And then we're arrested, put it prison cells, having our DNA taken, and our fingerprints....

I was happy initially that you were not in the film, because, well, it is not usually necessary to have to view the filmmaker. But then, at this point, when you were in the film, it seemed absolutely necessary -- just to show what can happen to a filmmaker. It seemed so shocking and unnecessary.

I never set out actually to make a feature film. It just evolved. I wanted to document what was going on. I live just down the road from where this was happending. And that is how I got involved.

Did you say that in the movie?  Did I miss that?

No, I didn't actually say that. My mother was Scottish and my father English, and I have lived in Scotland for the past ten years. But when the local newspaper kept saying how this was such a fantastic thing, yet they never seemed to be reporting the environmental effects. This was so frustrating to see that happening.

The same thing happens here. All the time.  Do you see any signs of this changing?

I think the important thing is to get films like this out there. I think they do have impact on the world. People say, We don't want to have any more of this happening locally, or to our planet. People are beginning to know that this is now happening all over the world. The wealthy keep building their palaces, and the rest of the world continue to lose ground. There is a growing sense of unease at all this from the 99%. People are beginning to fight back. We are going to stand our ground and say quietly and with great dignity, "We are not going to allow this to happen."

Films like yours may seem a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, that bucket begins to fill.

It is a kind of David and Goliath situation. Both making the film, and then trying to get the film out there. We had no support. We've had to do crowd-funding to even get it this far.  And we've hired a publicist.

Yes, I know and the Falco group are doing a great job! Who is distributing the film?

International Film Circuit.

Oh, yes, the lesser IFC!  But they are very good, I think.

They are. They really are. They are respected. And that is the battle we face. You mentioned Searching for Sugar Man. That film has so much more financial support behind it.

Well, it has Sony Pictures Classics!


I wouldn't be surprised if they have another Academy Award in that movie.

Yes, yes.

They usually have one in the Best Foreign Language Film category but they don't handle many documentaries.

No, they don't.

But still, your International Film Circuit is a good distrbutor. They also had that wonderful documentary on Sholem Aleichem.  So you came to them and sort of hired them?

The way it works is, if you have find a distributor, they will often put your films into a few theaters, but they will take their cut off the back end and on VOD and DVD. But because we felt the film would work very well in a few theaters, we felt we would like to keep control of the theatrical and then to do a separate deal for DVD and VOD.

When a filmmaker puts this much time into a film, he deserves some kind of compensation.

At the end of the day, we all have to pay a price. Also for the locals there, they are paying a huge price. I'm paying a very small one. And what about the environment? It cannot even speak for itself. It is so important that these stories get told. And this one is important: It isn't just a local story, it is an international one.

Did you see Battle for Brooklyn?

Yes and I really enjoyed that one!

Me, too, but it shocked me intially that it was shortlisted for an Academy Award. But when I thought for a minute, I realized that this kind of thing, as you say about Trump and the golf course, is happening all over the world!

And if it is not Trump, it will be somebody else.

But having Mr. Trump gives your film a kind of villain that the other films don't have. Someone with a special flair, a special nastiness that othere movies don't have. They may have a villain, but not with the reputation or name of Donald Trump.  This makes yours special.

And it was almost by accident. It could have been somebody else.

Then it would be different because each villian handles thing differently. Trump's sense of feeling special comes across so well in how you shoot him. You didn't have to do anything special: Just turn on the camera and let him do the rest. What are you working on next?

Well, nothing. Yet. Just working full time trying to get this movie out there. And learning how this business works.  I mean, when we first showed the film at a festival, the audience loved it. And then, one year later, here we still are, trying to get it out there, just getting it into a first theater.

At film festivals people go crazy, partly becasue they are film buffs. General audiences, even arthouse audiences, are harder to reach.

But this gave us an idea that the movie can work. It now been to a lot of festivals and been translated into several languages.  All this made us feel it is worth pursuing.

I'm glad you did! Has this opened in Britain? 

Yes. We essentially self-distributed it in Scotland, and now into a small number of theaters in Britain, but it is packing people in! It is showing in only a small number of theaters, obviously, but when it first opened in Aberdeen, it had advance ticket sales like the Harry Potter film! Which is very funny, because, when we first pitched the project, our arts agency -- which is now supporting, in a small way, the film's release in this country -- intially, we asked for production funding, and they would not support it because they said nobody will come and watch it.

So, now they know that people will come and watch!  And maybe when the next person comes to them with a project that's a little out of the ordinary, they might be quicker to support it. Did you ever see a movie called Earthwork?  It's a kind of narrative made in documentary style about an art project that Donald Trump and his organization were involved it.

No, I never saw that.

You should. It's quite good and very interesting, given the connection you now have with Trump.  Earthwork.  Look for that one. Good luck with this film, Anthony -- and thanks so much for giving me your time today!

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