'You've Been Trumped' at DC Environmental Film Festival

Recognizing, documenting, and contributing to the local protests against Donald Trump's golf course in Scotland, You've Been Trumped makes visible the various effects of corporate aggression.

You've Been Trumped

Director: Anthony Baxter
Cast: Donald Trump, Michael Forbes, Susan Munro, Anthony Baxter
Rated: NR
Studio: Montrose Pictures
Year: 2011
US date: 2012-03-13 (DC Environmental Film Festival)

"That's my father," says Molly Forbes over a grainy image of a farmer. "He was a prize plower, my father. He has lots of cups and medals." The screen shows her father, leaned low and back against the forward pull of his horses, so the plow digs deeper into the land. As the camera pulls back to show Molly watching the old footage on a laptop, she nods: "I know my father's style of plowing."

Molly's memories, framed so neatly on the laptop, seem also to stretch before her, as her window looks out on the wild grass and sandy dunes of Scotland's Aberdeenshire coast. That land is the subject of some controversy in You've Been Trumped, which traces the efforts of Donald Trump to construct "the world's greatest golf course" here, in the "birthplace of golf."

Screening at Washington DC's Environmental Film Festival on 13 March, Anthony Baxter's film shows that the planned $1.2 billion, 1200-acre course ran into trouble from the start. After purchasing the Menie Estate and dunes, Trump presented plans to the Aberdeenshire Council, which rejected it in 2007. Councilmember Martin Ford explains that the proposal "failed in spades," because it was not designed to help the local economy, but rather, "predicated on long distance tourism… on people flying across the Atlantic to play a few games of golf and flying back across the Atlantic." He goes on, "It was predicated on utilizing an irreplaceable and diminishing resource of effectively natural habitat." But, almost as soon as it was made, the local council's decision was overturned by the national government, and Trump's project went forward, with Donald Jr. named the Property Developer.

Baxter is on hand when Trump greets Miss Scotland under a fancy tent and Donald Jr. announces he's excited to get started on the course, which "will be etched into this land forever." Long, wide shots underline the beauty of "this land" before the etching commences, while closer shots show Trump's photo op -- complete with a golf club and bagpipers -- where Baxter asks Trump about his handling of local residents, like Michael Forbes, who have refused to sell their land. "Calling Mr. Forbes and his property names," essays Baxter from off-screen, "How does that help?" Trump jumps right in: "His property is terribly maintained, it's slum-like, it's disgusting. He's got stuff thrown all over the place, he lives like a pig. I saw that and I'm an honest guy and I speak honestly, and I think that’s why some people like me and some people probably don’t like me."

Interviews with locals suggest this isn't precisely the reason they "dislike" Trump. Rather, they see him as dishonest, promising jobs that don't materialize and benefits that have nothing to do with them, that is, a 450-room hotel and holiday apartments priced far beyond their means. As the construction proceeds, some 400 trees are cut down and buried, the dunes Trump says he's "saved" are flattened, and views are blocked by a program of berming designed to set off the golf courses (two) from nearby farms. Owners of those properties commiserate: Susan Munro laments, "This man, this foreigner, comes in, just because he's got a few pounds in his pocket, a bit of a name, and we're just cast aside we're in the way. It's an awful way to treat people." And Mickey Foote, former producer for the Clash and current Aderdeenshire resident, defends Michael Forbes against the "claptrap that Trump's PR machine put out about him."

In its broadest sense, this story of an international corporation imposing its will on a local community is familiar. Indeed, You've Been Trumped cites a very familiar version, Bill Forsyth's 1983 Local Hero, to highlight Trump's bullying and Forbes' opposition, as well as Aberdeenshire's fundamental charms and the environmental costs of the construction. But the film takes a turn when Baxter is arrested by local policemen.

The event is precipitated by apparently intentional harassments, as a road is built on top of Forbes' spring, and he and his neighbors lose their water (the octogenarian Molly must take a wheelbarrow down to a nearby stream in order to water her hens). After Baxter pesters a manager at the Menie Estate ("Are you filming now?", the man asks, "Would you might not filming here?"), a police cruiser comes by, leaves, and then backs back into frame. The frame careens as the policemen reach for Baxter's camera as Susan Munro, another neighbor who's on hand to observe the action, provides narration after the fact: "And then the next thing I know, you're wrestling over the bonnet of Finley's van, this policeman attacking you, trying to wrestle the camera off you." And then the frame goes black.

It's an odd and disturbing moment. In the film's narrative, the arrest seems, as Munro proclaims, "totally out of order" (an officer mentions an "alleged break-in at the estate," a point that remains unpressed when Baxter is released four hours later). In the film's structure, as well, the moment is strange, a formal break that gives way to questions rather than answers.

But if it's not clear who authorized the arrest or whether community authorities were colluding with the Trump construction site or what happened to the footage that was confiscated, the film leaves no doubt as to what this particular injustice -- rough and rambunctious -- represents in a wider context. As Trump appears on Letterman or on Scottish TV to disparage challengers (Forbes' property is "nothing I need") and promote the project ("They love the fact that I'm creating jobs"), and even receives an honorary degree from Robert Gordon University in Schoolhill Aberdeen (in recognition of "Mr. Trump's ability to make money," notes one observer), the film counters with a series of small-scale, low-budget, local moments. It follows David Kennedy's return of his Robert Gordon University degree (because awarding one to Trump "is making a mockery of the system"), Susan Munro's work on a campaign called "Tripping Up Trump," and Baxter's own continuing efforts to secure an actual interview with the Donald.

Such protests can't achieve their desired effects, they can't stop the project. But still, You've Been Trumped insists on their importance and also on the importance of seeing them. Recognizing, documenting, and contributing to the protests, the film does what it can do, making visible the effects of corporate aggression. As trees and dunes and birds disappear, flags are erected over the golf courses and the luxury hotel spreads over the landscape.

As the project goes forward (set to be completed next year), so too does debate. And now, after the film's completion, it appears that Trump has run into another sort of problem, as the Scottish government has okayed the construction of noisy wind turbines just over a mile from the course. Trump complains that wind energy is inefficient, indeed, that this proposed farm will destroy the coastline and "Scotland will go broke." Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie has responded: "He can't bully Scotland against meeting its climate change obligations and renewable energy ambitions."






Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.