Sunday, 30 October 2016

From the archive: "You've Been Trumped"

You've Been Trumped, a very canny documentary by self-billed "freelancer" Anthony Baxter, sets out the kind of anti-capitalist resistance it's hard not to get caught up in. Some time around the turn of the millennium, Donald Trump vowed to develop "the greatest golf course in the world" on a previously unspoilt stretch of the Aberdeenshire coast. Planning permission was initially denied by the local council, who had serious sustainability and environmental concerns, but the plans were called in by the newly independent Scottish parliament, who - with an eye to job and wealth creation - overruled the decision.

What Team Trump hadn't counted on up to that point was the appalled reaction of those local residents whose homes fell prone to CPOs (compulsory purchase orders) when the deal went through, and were - understandably - less than delighted at the prospect of having to give up parts of their land so that a bunch of zillionaires could fly in to play a few holes and go back again. Anyway, into this stand-off trumps Trump in his own private jet, his "hair" indistinguishable from the long reeds blowing in the wind, first tossing promises of employment and riches to these paupers, and then going on the offensive, bawling out anyone who dared to stand their ground, and labelling their homes "slums" and "pigsties", trumpety-Trump.

Part of Baxter's project here is to take the viewer into these homes, and show you what a warped idea of filth and poverty Trump has. Sure, these cosy farmhouses are hardly Trump Towers, but they're the bedrocks of good, hard-working, genuine people, with history and roots that are evidently worth more to them than any number of billionaire's cheques. The farm of Michael Forbes - the most vocal of the holdouts, dismissed by Trump as living in "disgusting conditions" - becomes as much a site of resistance as the steps of St. Paul's during the Occupy protests, with one barn converted into a makeshift gallery to showcase the anti-Trump works of a local artist. (His crazy golf-inspired installation, where visitors are invited to putt balls into Trump's looming, all-devouring maw, proves especially popular.)

Baxter's methods are simple, sometimes obvious, yet almost always effective: footage of the locals - who extend not just to farmers, but a former manager of The Clash and the ferocious academic David Kennedy - is set to stirring Celtic music and interposed with scenes from Bill Forsyth's enduring movie touchstone Local Hero, filmed up the road, which serves as a reminder of a better class of trans-Atlantic collaboration. By contrast, it's clearly not hard to make Trump appear like some swaggering Noo Jersey thug, not when he sets his minions to switching off the holdouts' water and electricity supplies, sends the local police round to rough the filmmaker up, and is caught sleazing over Miss Scotland; the tragedy is that he almost doesn't have to worry, given the number of friends he has in high places, impressed by his wealth, seeking his patronage. (Worse may be to come: Trump's son and heir would seem to be an even bigger shit, one who doesn't even have the comedy hairpiece to mitigate against the inherited peacocking and contempt for those less well off than himself.)

What follows is an object lesson in bad planning: as the diggers move in and the dunes are ripped up, we begin to see the effects this astonishing arrogance has on the landscape, with householders receiving invoices for work the Trump contractors have carried out. (In what's surely the biggest slap in the face to the area and its politicians, those contractors are Irish, not Scottish: as Trump himself barks in one of his countless, godawful reality shows: "Get it done, and don't spend a lot.") What keeps you buoyed, and gripped, is that everything the businessman does - each glib public appearance and huffy-puffy TV interview, every covert landgrab - has a galvanising effect on the opposition; we gather that resistance, like a golf course, can be built and sustained and fortified. You've Been Trumped would make an excellent rallying tool: it makes you sad, then angry, and then determined, if not to overthrow your chosen oppressor, then to at least pull that fucking rug off his head.

(October 2012)

You've Been Trumped is available to stream on Netflix, and to buy on DVD here; a sequel, You've Been Trumped Too, opens in selected cinemas from Friday.

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