The 2017 Sundance Film Festival has added a rather shady-sounding documentary about Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign, TRUMPED: Inside The Greatest Political Upset of All Time, which will screen at the tail end of the festival on Friday, 1.27 and Saturday, 1.28. There will apparently be an earlier press screening somewhere in Park City on Monday, 1,23.
Why the shade? Partly because TRUMPED has been executive produced by Mark Halperin, John Heileman and Mark McKinnon, the trio behind Showtime’s The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth, which tends to emphasize the nitty-gritty horse race aspects of political battles without focusing much on the ethical or historical underpinnings, which indicates that the basic attitude of TRUMPED may be something along the lines of “wow, what an amazing tactical victory this New York billionaire managed to pull off…gotta give him credit, right?”
Halperin‘s participation troubles me in particular. His reputation, after all, is not just that of a savvy political commentator and author but also, at least in terms of the ’15 and ’16 campaigns, as a Trump shill and lapdog.
Halperin’s Wiki page mentions that last October Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank called Halperin’s analysis in the Presidential race “soulless” and “amoral.” A headline for an 8.9.16 Media Matters story by Jared Holt called Halperin a “bonafide Trump apologist.” A headline for a 10.26.16 Media-ite story by Justin Baragona complained that Halperin is “Trump’s Biggest Cheerleader.” An 11.18 Crooks and Liars story by Karoli Kuns noted that “for the past year, Mark Halperin has served as nothing more than a shameless Donald Trump apologist.”
I’m also disturbed by the phrase “greatest political upset of all time,” which suggests that the filmmakers believe there’s something kinda great (i.e., stupendous, awesome, wowser, impressive) about Trump’s phenomenal success. New Yorker editor David Remnick, to name but one, regards Trump’s victory is “an American tragedy,” which of course is roughly synonymous with catastrophic, horrorshow, a huge step backward — a view that is shared by quite a few people in the liberal, centrist and even conservative camps.
When I mentioned this concern to Russell Posternak, who’s working on the doc’s behalf for the Manhattan-based Daniels-Murphy Communications, he answered that “in the context of the title, ‘greatest’ mostly just means [an] unexpected upset.” Something deserving of a “holy shit” response, he meant. Nope — “greatest” is a term of admiration or celebration. When someone calls this or that undertaking “a great feat” the implication is obviously one of respect and positivity. When Cecil B. DeMille called his 1952 film The Greatest Show On Earth, the implication was clearly that the circus show in question (i.e., the one run by Charlton Heston) was an exciting, stupendous sight to behold.
“This not a rightwing or leftwing doc,” Postnerak insisted. “It presents a behind-the-scenes view into the machinations of the Trump campaign and allows viewers to form their own judgements.”