Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014: A Dangerous Game continues story started in You’ve Been Trumped
Director Anthony Baxter's Donald Trump golf course documentary highlights corporate aggression worldwide
With his recent purchase of Turnberry, Donald Trump remains in the news. Eddie Harrison speaks to Anthony Baxter, director of You’ve Been Trumped, about his decision to make a follow-up doc
George Orwell said ‘journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed – everything else is public relations’. The prominence of Anthony Baxter’s 2011 documentary You’ve Been Trumped was largely due to saying something that billionaire Donald Trump did not want said: that his golf courses were environmentally unsound, and that his plans conflicted with the interests of local communities. The depiction of the negative tactics used by Trump to suppress Baxter’s investigation made it a cause célèbre and has led directly to his follow-up film, A Dangerous Game.
‘In a way, I felt I had to continue because I still had a story I wanted to tell,’ says Baxter. ‘Trump was continuing his development 40 miles up the road from where I live in Montrose [Aberdeenshire], and at each screening of You’ve Been Trumped, whether in Birmingham, Alabama, or in The Hamptons, more and more people came and told me that they had similar feelings and experiences. It was a local story with universal appeal.’
In A Dangerous Game, Baxter expands his investigation of environmental and geo-political concerns, looking into similar situations in places like Dubrovnik in Croatia, where plans for exclusive golf resorts are stirring up local opposition. And this time, he’s had a little more financial assistance with the film’s creation.
‘We had some support from Creative Scotland with the development, and the BBC with the pre-production, although the film itself is self-funded and we’re now actively seeking help via crowdfunding site Indiegogo to get the film out there,’ says Baxter. ‘It was deeply annoying that with You’ve Been Trumped, I went to the British Film Institute for funding and they told me that “no one in England is interested”, which I found astonishing. There’s also plenty of TV executives who think they know what people want to see, and it’s stifling filmmakers. It was a big break for my film to get screened on BBC2, which certainly brought it to a wider audience. It’s great that it happened on this occasion, but makes you wonder why it doesn’t happen more often.’
You’ve Been Trumped has been shown widely across the world, and A Dangerous Game, fresh from the Hot Docs festival in Toronto and at Sheffield Documentary Festival, screens in Edinburgh before opening in the UK in September. Baxter’s film is likely to cause yet more controversy and debate, but in an age of PR spin, can journalists and filmmakers actually make a difference?
‘When I first trained as a journalist, newspapers would send us to council meetings to investigate what was happening; that simply doesn’t happen anymore. When I worked in news at Radio Teeside, we had 12 journalists; now there’s maybe two,’ says Baxter. ‘People in a television newsroom don’t have time to properly investigate stories, and people like Rob Edwards (environmental editor of the Sunday Herald) are part of a dwindling group who still get involved in unearthing stories. Film and television may well be where that investigative tradition continues, and I sincerely hope it does.’
A Dangerous Game screens as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival, Cineworld, Tue 24 & Sat 28 Jun.