Aside from the corny title, Anthony Baxter’s You’ve Been Trumped is a fine, powerful piece of documentary filmmaking, using old-fashioned vérité techniques—and more than a little audience manipulation—to show how political influence and media savvy help the wealthy exert their will. In 2005, Donald Trump purchased a large plot of environmentally protected land on the coast of Scotland, then announced plans to build a golf resort. His proposal failed environmental-impact studies, and was rejected by the local government, but the national government intervened and allowed Trump to proceed, while threatening some of Trump’s new neighbors with “Compulsory Purchase,” saying they could be forced off their land to allow Trump to expand his project. Baxter spent time with the people standing up to Trump, and tried to document the real-estate development as well, though private security and policemen worked to thwart him, and in one case had Baxter arrested in the middle of an interview. Though You’ve Been Trumped has no narration, it speaks with a clear, personal voice—and that voice is outraged.
You’ve Been Trumped ends before the story is finished; there have been new wrinkles in the Trump case since the documentary first screened, with the film itself reportedly helping to change some minds. And Baxter plays on viewers’ sympathy more than he has to, by using clips from Local Hero and warm footage of people working their land and sharing fellowship with their neighbors. He needn’t have stacked the deck so much, since the facts appear to be on his side. As captured in the documentary, Trump’s construction crews rolled in recklessly, marring the land and cutting off people’s resources, with no apparent government oversight and no immediate legal recourse for the wronged. In one particularly nervy incident, Trump’s surveyors declared that a portion of one man’s land belonged to Trump, so they knocked down a fence, built a new one, and billed the man for the job. Then they surrounded his house with mounds of dirt, so it wouldn’t be visible from the golf course.
In defense of Baxter’s more propagandistic techniques, he’s only fighting using Trump’s own weapons. You’ve Been Trumped is at its most revealing when it’s documenting the way Trump plays his game: by sounding calm and in charge as he lies to press about what he’s going to do and how “the people” feel about it. Here, Trump casually slanders farmers and activists at press conferences, while referring to letters of support and jobs created, without providing evidence of either. Trump got ahead of the debate, framing it as a fight between normal, good people—the rich, in other words—and a few negligible undesirables. That’s how he justifies taking what he wants, by using language and posture to marginalize.