In 2005, Donald Trump announced plans to build two golf courses and a 450 bedroom hotel at the Menie Estate on Scotland’s east coast. The bad news for local residents? Trump’s golf complex was to be situated on the Menie Estate’s dunes, a beautiful wilderness area and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. The bad news for Trump? British journalist Anthony Baxter decided to make a documentary about what he regarded as a David-and-Goliath struggle between the local population and the Apprentice star.
Baxter’s film, You’ve Been Trumped, debuts today at New York’s Angelika cinema and opens in Los Angeles on August 17.
Below, the director talks about why he decided to take on The Donald, getting arrested for his efforts, and why even he can’t help explain what’s going on with Trump’s hair.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is your first film. Why did you decide to take on one of the most powerful and wealthy people on the face of the planet as your debut?
ANTHONY BAXTER: I live very close to where Donald Trump announced he was going to build the golf course. When the story first broke in the local newspapers, everybody was saying this is going to be a great thing. It’s Donald Trump, he’s bringing all these jobs, and it’s going to be an amazing thing for the area.I knew that environment was very sensitive.
Although I hadn’t made a feature film before, I’m a journalist-filmmaker and did a radio documentary for the BBC about man-made erosion in the town where I live and that really got me interested in the fact that these dunes were so precious. So I tried to get money to make the film and the first thing that was said to me, by one executive in Edinburgh, was, “Well, I hope you’ve got a good lawyer.” As if to say, “We can’t make films about people like Donald Trump.” I just thought, “That’s ludicrous.” I felt very strongly about the story and decided to continue anyway. So I re-mortgaged the house and we went on the Internet to crowd-fund and we raised in total about $40,000.
Why did you feel so strongly about this subject?
This story was very important for two reasons: One, the environment, and the other, the residents, who were being parodied in the media. The local newspapers would just report this spat between (local resident) Michael Forbes and Donald Trump and they would never go into further depth about these people, who were real people, obviously. They just happened to care very passionately about this stretch of land because that’s where their homes were. When I saw Donald Trump calling Michael Forbes a pig and his farm a slum, I just thought, “I’d like to go and meet this man.” And so I did. I went up and spoke to Michael and the other residents.
But I felt it wasn’t just a local story. I felt it was an internationally important story because this kind of thing is happening all over the world, where local people feel powerless and they are not given a voice because the newspapers are not giving them a say. I really felt passionately that this story had to be documented.
At one point in the film you are actually shown being arrested by the police for doing little more, it would seem, than complaining to the man in charge of the building site that interrupted local water supplies. What was that experience like?
Well, it was deeply shocking and also depressing, I have to say. We were essentially doing what I always thought the point of journalism was — holding people in power to account and giving ordinary people a voice. We find an 86-year-old woman has had her water cut off for a week, we go and speak to the only man that can do anything about it, and he makes it clear there’s urgency to the situation. We are there, doing that interview with Mr Trump’s worker, we then go to the house of one of the other local residents, we’re on her property when the police come down and they violently arrest us.
It’s an extraordinary situation. We’re taken to Aberdeen police headquarters. DNA. Fingerprints. Photographs. Our possessions stripped from us. We’re put in separate cells. According to the National Union of Journalists, it was an unprecedented incident and raised very very serious questions about press freedom in the UK.
One of the most memorable sequences in the film is when you’re asking Trump questions at a press conference which you must know are enraging him but you’re doing so in an entirely calm manner, as if you’re just asking about the weather.
I just felt these are the questions which needed to be asked. I was depressed always when I heard the press asking questions of Mr Trump like, “Is the golf course turning out better than you had hoped, Mr Trump?” [Laughs] I couldn’t believe it when I heard those kind of questions. I just feel there’s such an important role for journalists at the moment to hold to account people with money and power who are used to just getting their way — and it just doesn’t seem to be happening.
You had the opportunity to see The Donald somewhat up close in windy conditions. Do you have any special knowledge or insight concerning his hair?
The Scottish wind is unforgiving to hair of that, uh, type. You’d see him on the dunes saying, “Is my hair okay?” and asking whether a reporter had a mirror so he could check. But it’s something I’ve never had to deal with. I’ve got no hair. No, I don’t have any insider information.
You can watch the trailer for You’ve Been Trumped below.
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