Last week, an email hit my inbox to tell me that Michael Moore’s Trumpland would be shown at the HotDocs cinema this weekend. Despite living in the political capital of Australia for 10 years, I do not consider myself a political junky. I would describe myself as, at best, someone who is somewhat informed about Australian politics – this is probably less of a reflection of my actual knowledge of current affairs and more to do with the fact that, when you live in Canberra, there are some pretty passionate politi-philes who are seriously well-informed about all things politics, meaning your average (or perhaps even slightly better than average) understanding pales in comparison. Anyway, I digress.
Unlike me, Tristan is reasonably well-informed about politics. He has a good grasp of his personal political ideals and the reasoning behind those. That may have originated from his Canberra born and bred status, but I feel there is also a genuine interest which drives him to read as much as he can about a raft of issues that I probably should care more about. His interest isn’t limited to Australian politics either, with the upcoming Trump v Clinton election definitely occupying a lot of his time of late. Just last weekend I woke up in the morning to the sound of Tristan watching representatives from the Republican and Democrat camps engaging in a debate about the Third Trump / Clinton Debate! So, when I saw the email about Trumpland, despite being someone who will generally avoid documentaries at all costs, let alone documentaries about politics, I thought I would treat Tristan to some tickets. [The decision was also made easier because the tickets were only $10 each (which is about half the price of movie tickets in Australia).]
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. I reminded Tristan a few times in the morning that I had only gotten the tickets because of him and that I hoped he wouldn’t be offended if I turned to playing Candy Crush during the film. I was, however, pleasantly surprised.
Notwithstanding the title Trumpland, the film itself had very little to do with Trump. Being a Michael Moore number meant it was obviously not a pro-Trump piece, but it was also not a one-and-a-half-hour hate fest on all the things we already know about why Trump would be a poor choice for President. I think the name was simply a reference to the fact that the live show forming the basis of the film was performed in one of the most Trump-supportive towns in North America.
Although I don’t have a great deal of interest in politics, as a person who debates and persuades for a living (or did so in my recent past), I enjoy observing how different people approach the task of persuasion. I thought Moore made an impressive effort in Trumpland. Aside from the odd humorous jab at Trump, it was clear Moore was endeavouring not to alienate his Trump-leaning guests, instead reminding the audience that Trump supporters were not simply redneck conservatives, but generally everyday Americans angry at a government that had let them down time and time again. The acknowledgement that Trump supporters have genuine concerns, combined with Moore’s entertaining approach to the whole conversation, may well help one of Moore’s core messages to actually stick when these voters get to the polling booths on November 8 – that is, while Americans have every right to be angry, to use their ballot as an outlet for anger management risks leaving their country in the position the United Kingdom now finds itself in having voted in favour of Brexit (stuck with an outcome apparently few actually wanted).
In a world where politics has become less about ideals, views and opinions and more about the rhetoric and competition of who can throw and withstand more personal abuse than the other, this film was a refreshing change. Amidst the jokes was an overaching message for unification – that rather than look at their differences, Americans on both sides of the political fence should be looking at what they have in common. As undoubtedly one of the most influential countries in the world, I hope its people can start to head in this direction again soon.
If you can get your hands on this documentary, it’s definitely worth checking out for some light entertainment and to hear about Moore’s forbidden love for Hilary Clinton dating back to the ’90s. It is not overly political so don’t expect to get that all too familiar frustrated feeling when you hear a politician campaigning for something that is wrong on so many levels. And while I am usually indifferent to the in-cinema experience, this documentary is one I actually enjoyed watching with others. Expect plenty of theatre-wide laughter and the odd cheer “yes!” from that enthusiastic person who thinks Moore can actually hear them through the big screen.
– C (Written by me because Tristan would have spent all his time frustrated over the fact that Trump could actually become President.)
Click here to watch a trailer of the film I found on YouTube. It’s not the best trailer, but it’s the only version I could find.
Also, the header image is a still from the live recording of Trumpland and was sourced from the official Trumpland website.