Film

True/False Film Fest: 'Our New President'

(True/False Film Fest)

The next film from Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer director Maxim Pozdorovkin treats us to Russian propaganda about the United States.

Maxim Pozdorovkin follows up his 2013 film, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, documenting the incarceration by the Russian feminist punk collective, with this collection of news coverage of the 2016 election and its aftermath, told through the lens of Russian state TV. Pozdorovkin referred to Our New President as a collection of propaganda, a film with almost no true statements at any point.

Indeed, for the next 89 minutes you are treated to how Russia sees -- or conveys -- the US, from Hillary running, to Trump winning, to Putin and friends cracking wise about how all of this was their doing, with a wink and a mischievous smile. For an American audience the footage cut together in this order is often funny, with a true sense of comedic timing, and statements so ludicrous they are laughable, but that humor quickly gives way to discomfort as we remember its chilling implications.

Our New President first shows First Lady Hillary Clinton in 1997 visiting Princess Ukok, a 2,500 year old Siberian mummy thought to be a shaman. Hillary is greeted by a welcoming committee who take her to the Russian landmark, in footage with remaining VHS lines running through them. We see the entourage circling the tomb and gazing down at the remains. Russia's particular brand of tabloidy trash newsmagazine coverage implies that the First Lady's visit has somehow cursed her. If you were to follow this logic to its chilling conclusion, then everything that happened to her leading up to the 2016 election was just what she had coming for "disturbing the bones", if you will. But as you pull apart the layers here, repeated conspiracy theory coverage about Hillary's "fatal illnesses", speculation about "all the people she's murdered", and interspersed YouTube footage of Russian citizens sticking pins into Hillary voodoo dolls, it builds a narrative that Russia was gunning for Hillary's loss the whole time.

America's new president doesn't make an appearance until his election victory (almost as if he is beside the point), which appears when we see a YouTube video of a child praising "Brother Trump" and congratulating him on a job well done. The boy peels back his sleeve to reveal "Trump" written on his bicep, at which point his mother enters the frame and demands to know why he's shouting like a moron.

We are then treated to clips of citizens singing praise for Trump (literally singing) into their webcams. Various clips -- from the program, Russia Today in English, and the state-owned television station Russia 1 in Russian -- show Russian citizens falling all over themselves with joy, now that there will be peace thanks to the election of Trump. One of the most damning pieces of footage is when Trump and Putin first meet after he's become President. A Russian reporter scrambles to make sure the shot of them sitting together shaking hands is framed perfectly because this is, "The Culmination" as he calls it -- as if a "friendship" between the US and Russia is a direct result of hacking the US presidential election in 2016. Another particularly odd moment comes in a shot of someone referring to Russia "taking" the US. Easily. As with Crimea.

(screenshot from trailer)

Our New President, which premiered at Sundance, doesn't provide informational screens that give deeper context. You begin to realize that this sensational footage is real archival footage from real Russian TV -- these are very real misinformation campaigns that have been going on for decades. However, at one point the film does start to show footage and give some backstory about NTV, the last free media service before Putin consolidated everything into Russia 1. There was a poll of NTV viewers asking how trustworthy Putin is, and as you might imagine, when the people are allowed to give their honest opinion about the state on a platform that isn't run by the state, the number of people who voted "mistrust" was greater than 2 to 1.

The chilling last words on NTV before being taken over by the state, delivered by a terrified reporter who appears to be at his wit's end, states that Russians should be insulted at how their government is treating their voice. Our New President paints a harrowing picture of what it must be like as a citizen dictated by a vain billionaire who has taken away almost all journalistic outlets besides RT and YouTube, which he has filled with trolls. That's beginning to sound uncomfortably familiar to Americans, now, too, isn't it?

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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