By DiMarkco Chandler:
“You’ve Been Trumped” investigates the social, economic and environmental impact of American tycoon Donald Trump’s attempts to build what he claims will be ‘the world’s greatest golf course’ on one of Britain’s last wilderness areas. The film represents Anthony Baxter’s immensely compelling low budget documentary beginning with a well-placed clip from Bill Forsyth’s acclaimed Scottish comedy-drama “Local Here” (1983), which tells the story of a small coastal town standing up to a wealthy American oil tycoon. In Baxter’s protest piece, US billionaire Donald Trump plays the role of main antagonist, seemingly intent on destroying not only an area of biological and scientific, but also the lives of a sleepy fishing village’s senior residents with his construction plans for a multi-million dollar luxury golf course.
Acting without any visible sign of conscience, remorse or scruples (remember, Trump is a man who lauds the benefits of greed with the vehemence of a real-life Gordon Gekko), the infamous property developer swiftly set about defaming those opposed to his initial plan, particularly impassioned farmer Michael Forbes. Forbes’ property, which he uses to store his farming machinery, is denounced as a “slum” by Trump on numerous occasions, going as far to suggest that the film’s very own local hero lived “like a pig”. Having publically discredited his main adversary, the Trump construction machine moved in, turning pristine natural dunes into a muddy, sterile wasteland.
With only a meagre budget and the might of the Trump empire standing in his way at every turn (if Baxter was give a cash payout every time he was instructed to turn of his camera, he’d be rivalling Trump himself in terms of wealth), Baxter has done a tremendous job in capturing one of the greatest injustices in recent Scottish history. Both the Scottish government and First Minister Alex Salmond seemed more than happy to allow the mega-rich developed to unpick the lives of their own constituents, with assaults on not only Baxter himself (who was arrested whilst making the film) but also the local water and electricity supply examples of thinly veiled attempts at intimidation.
It would be particularly easy for this review to descend into a tirade against Trump and the extremities of his own destructive thirst for money and power. Thankfully, “You’ve Been Trumped” does a remarkable job of tying together the various relevant issues and disputes, all with an unfussy, extremely personable filmmaking approach. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Baxter seems more than happy to fade into the background, instead preferring to let his eloquent subjects and roving camera do the talking.
A modern day David vs. Goliath tale in the truest sense, “You’ve Been Trumped” deserves to be watched by every individual who has ever felt let down by the powers that be, or that greed and profit have obstructed the path of truth and justice. Baxter is a talented, endearing filmmaker, and his latest effort an exquisite, vital piece of documentary filmmaking.
It is my belief that People, or at least people who aren’t themselves tremendously wealthy, love to watch defiant ordinary folk stand up to the rich and powerful, and in Baxter’s hands nobody’s more defiant and ordinary than Forbes—and nobody’s more rich and powerful than Trump. The two men snap so easily into their clichéd molds that the emotional arc of the film sells itself: We’re inclined seemingly by default to align ourselves with Forbes and his quest to save his home, and if we don’t already regard Trump’s empire as inherently evil, ominous music politely underscores the point every time the man or his underlings roll up in black SUVs. (Forbes and his neighbors, on the other hand, are soundtracked by the earnest coos of Sigur Rós; the vibe is like a love-in.) Such cues underline an already obvious point in big, thick felt-tip marker, and if by the end of the film you remain unconvinced that Aberdeenshire is a precious natural idyll on the verge of annihilation by the sheer force of one tycoon’s greed, Baxter hasn’t been doing his job. The sentiment is bludgeoning.
Tellingly, however, the most damning thing said about Trump throughout the film comes not only from his own mouth, but from one of his own TV specials. In it we see him eye a property at the periphery of his land before flippantly saying, “I want to get rid of that house, it’s ugly.” Baxter’s mistake is assuming that anybody could confuse Trump for an even vaguely philanthropic or even especially sensitive figure; it seems obvious though that everybody is aware, and in fact Trump himself openly acknowledges, that he’s first and foremost a businessman, a savvy investor whose financial interests come before anything else. What’s interesting about this land purchase and development isn’t the specific impact it has on the lives of the handful of residents who are being displaced or inconvenienced (their story is common, muted, and too easily lends itself to emotional manipulation), but the broader implications of land-development deals the world over, like the long-term environmental and economic effects of a new golf course and hotel. Or, looking even broader, the film might have looked into the mechanics of municipal and national politics as they relate to obviating existing bylaws or decisions (Baxter explains that city council once rejected Trump’s proposal and then strongly implies that money helped overturn the decision, but it’s never explored further). These issues are complex, but “You’ve Been Trumped” has no interest in nuance or depth; it assumes, instead, that a juicy story and self-righteous indignation will suffice. But an attitude can’t convince anybody who isn’t already on your side, which makes this nothing more than a firm pat on the back for those who already agree with the fundamentals.