A sign of protest in YOU'VE BEEN TRUMPED (International Film Circuit)

Edited & Directed by Anthony Baxter
Produced by Richard Phinney
Written by Phinney & Baxter
Released by International Film Circuit
USA. 96 min. Not rated

Hubris is on willing display in this modest exposé-documentary by Scottish filmmaker Anthony Baxter on billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump’s quest to build the world’s greatest golf course in the sport’s spiritual home of Scotland. For pros and meager handicaps alike, it would be a vacation resort to rival all others, offering beachfront condominiums in the heart of some of the most beautiful dunes in the hemisphere, along with stunning Atlantic Ocean views for which the shire of Aberdeen is famous. His only obstacle? The Scots who already happen to live there.

Trump’s project is a life changing nuisance for a small community of farmers and fisherman. (A resort community can’t have ramshackle sheds, chicken coops, and piles of old fishing nets in plain view, now can it?) Compulsory purchase laws exist throughout Great Britain, and they are much like our eminent domain laws here in the United States. The local government in Aberdeen threatens that if these country folk don’t sell off their property and move voluntarily, they will be forced to. In this all-too-common tale of moneyed interests terrorizing and displacing otherwise powerless middle-class citizens, Baxter illustrates well the way powerful developers time and again use the system to their own ends.

“This is a very popular project,” Trump states over and over in press conferences and other public appearances, captured exhaustively by Baxter. Those in power in the shire government share the same interests as Trump, and sadly, they don’t include preservation of the traditional community or environmental conservation. Of the thousands of local jobs the project promised, the film reveals that only dozens of local jobs were actually created, the rest going to international contractors and migrant workers. And of the billions in local investment promised, Trump’s project delivered far, far less.

It’s a maddening story, made worse by the fact that Donald Trump is unabashed about his contempt for those without money. “He lives like a pig,” Trump declares of one of the residents resisting displacement. To this day, in fact, Trump’s marquee hotel hasn’t yet been built. Trump’s first reason was that guests wouldn’t want to look out their windows “on a slum,” the second was the economic downturn that continued through 2011, and finally he claimed that planned offshore wind turbines would ruin his guests’ ocean views. “When I look out at the ocean,” says Trump, “I want to see the ocean. I don’t want to see a wind farm.”

Baxter’s documentary is effective overall, if a bit scattershot and rough around the edges. We ought to give him credit, though, considering the local police actually arrested him and his small crew and charged them with breach of the peace—a criminal offense—after they interviewed one of Trump’s groundskeepers. Two years later, after the film’s success at festivals worldwide, the filmmakers were given an official apology.

Baxter has a little Michael Moore in him—his stunts are both fun and effective in telling the story. Another favorite of mine was local scientist Dr. David Kennedy, who, upon hearing that nearby Robert Gordon University was awarding Trump an honorary degree (a move no doubt in cahoots with the local government’s support of the project), made a public display of giving back his own honorary degree in disgust.

Whatever your particular ideology, it’s impossible to miss Donald Trump’s, which he fully espouses throughout this film. He’s a brazen elitist who cares very little for the environment, traditionalism, or those with less wealth. With a guy like Trump, Baxter’s job as a filmmaker was probably not especially difficult, yet he covers the events well and offers a memorable and inspiring story. It’s hard to walk out of this one without wanting to do your part in the fight against those who would preserve the worst of the one percent class divide. Unless of course, you agree with Trump’s politics. But in that case, you’re probably not seeing this independent film.