Publishing hasn’t been the only medium to reap benefits from the Trump presidency. Documentaries — especially those with political overtones — have also experienced a golden-age-type windfall, evident in strong summer boxoffice for movies like “RBG,” with an additional spate of releases due this fall.
Just the next few weeks will see the opening of “Active Measures,” director Jack Bryan’s meticulous examination of the relationships and history linking President Trump to the Russian government; and “America Chaos,” James D. Stern’s first-person account — as a Hillary Clinton supporter — of the factors leading to Donald Trump’s surprising election as the 45th president.
Those projects will be augmented by several more, including high-profile premieres in September at the Toronto International Film Festival: Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9,” a date tied to the 2016 election; Errol Morris’ “American Dharma,” about Trump administration alumnus Steve Bannon; and Alexis Bloom’s “Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes,” a profile of the late patriarch of Fox News Channel, which has become in the eyes of many political and media observers a near-indistinguishable extension of the Trump communications operation.
Toronto received an overall increase in submissions this year, covering a gamut of topics, said Thom Powers, who programs TIFF’s documentary lineup.
“As we’re watching them, usually some thematic cluster will appear,” Powers said. “This year, one of those thematic clusters is clearly around politics.”
In “American Chaos,” Stern travels the country talking to Trump supporters, after proclaiming during the campaign that “America’s not gullible enough to elect a man” with his credentials.
During one of the more telling exchanges, Stern asks an older white man to identify the year to which the Trump slogan “Make America Great Again” hearkens back. He puts the time at 1957, seemingly oblivious to the fact that those years might not be viewed in the same way by women and minorities.
The film, notably, continues through election night, as a clearly crestfallen Stern watches the results, finally proclaiming, “Maybe we’ll survive this too.”