Directed by Anthony Baxter
It’s difficult to criticize Anthony Baxter’s documentary You’ve Been Trumped, because at no point does one want to appear to take the side of cartoonish American entrepreneur Donald Trump. Trump damns himself with his own tongue several times over, just in the limited media materials that Baxter samples. However it seems that Baxter opts for many heavy strikes when a light touch would do, and as such he does not give Trump the skewering that is so richly deserved.
At issue is a golf course in Aberdeen, Scotland, which the Trump empire announced its intention to build in 2006. A group of Aberdeen residents has opposed the golf course from the outset, and they have refused to move from their homes despite the threat of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) to remove them by law. Baxter, who hails from nearby Montrose, has been in on the story from the very beginning.
Trump’s position is also clear from the very beginning: he proves to be a buffoon in the movie’s very first scene, where he meets Miss Scotland and suggests that she receive a low-level job in the Trump organization – “something in sales”, he says – as though she were not an international representative of all Scots. If Miss Scotland is just a cog in Donald Trump’s machine, what chance do the residents of Aberdeen have?
Baxter does a solid job of documenting the indignities fostered by the development on the locals: first their water goes away, the electricity follows soon after, and the edges of their property are shaved away soon after that. Not only does Trump call the homes “slums” and “a pig sty” in interviews with British media, not only are huge mounds of loose earth piled all around the homes to block any view of them, but Baxter has found a fawning Golf Channel special called “Donald Trump’s Wonderful World of Golf” in which Trump gloats about the earth-dumping and admits “I don’t care” about the people therein.
The problem is that Baxter’s touch with everyone other than the Aberdeen residents is a bit ham-handed. In press appearances related to the film, Baxter talks a great deal about how the local media has been too accepting of Trump’s claims that 6,000 jobs will be created by the development; he tells a story of how the local newspaper ran a picture of a local council that rejected Trump’s plan, with the huge headline, “TRAITORS.” Why save such information for Q&A sessions? That should be in the movie! Similarly, most of the Scottish government rejects requests for an interview, but surely some of them have have talked about this issue in front of a camera somewhere. Baxter would have done well to attempt to indict them with their own words also.
Eventually Baxter becomes a subject in his own film, as his confrontational questions mark him as a target for Trump security and the local police to harass. Of course Trump is himself confrontational, so it might have seemed that Baxter had no choice, but the best documentaries can maintain their outrage while simultaneously avoiding such conflicts. It seems that Baxter let the anger of the Aberdeen locals influence his thinking too much and throw off his aim: despite the fact that Donald Trump spends his entire life leading with his chin (both literally and metaphorically), You’ve Been Trumped represents only a glancing blow instead of a knockout punch.