Suspicious-Sounding Trump Doc Added to Sundance

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.”

  • Marty Melville

    Yeah, doubt that the producers of The Greatest Story Ever Told were implying that it was a cautionary tale.

  • DukeSavoy

    Okay, post items about him if you must, but spare us pictures of the puckered orange asshole.

  • Dr. New Jersey

    Oh certainly, no reason to study the facts, strategies and ideas of the election for use in the future. A prolonged scree of “He’s evil!!!” is all you need.

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  • Fred’s Hand

    Milbank’s the pot to Halperin’s kettle.

  • B.Dog

    Respectfully disagree. Saw Halperin every day on Morning Joe and All Due Respect. He’s a straight shooter. What he wasn’t was a Hillary cheerleader or a “Trump has no chance” declarer. All his comments were within the context of politics and political optics. Don’t forget that he and Heilemann are the guys who wrote GAME CHANGE, a totally factual account of the Palin fiasco. Do not miss this screening. It’ll be good. But you’re gonna have to sit through some Hillary campaign bashing, guaranteed.

    • gruver1

      I intend to see it. I read “Game Change” and “Double Down” — good, sturdy reporting.

      • B.Dog

        Whereas Heilemann wore his partisanship on his sleeve and loudly denounced the daily Trump idiocy, I always felt Halperin never called out the behavior, but rather stayed emotionless – sticking strictly to the political ramifications of every move. If that made him in the tank, so be it. I found him to be a refreshing and sober counterpoint to the daily hysterics about Trump’s antics.

      • Joe.Leydon

        Near the tail end of the campaign — when it still looked like Hillary would win — Halperin was on one of the MSNBC chat shows (The 11th Hour, I think) when the host identified him, only half-jokingly, as the one person on the panel who consistently insisted that Trump could still pull it off. Halperin’s response? Well, if looks could kill…

        On the other hand: As an election junkie, I am dying to see this. Sounds like it could be the best movie of its kind since “Journeys with George.”

        • B.Dog

          I couldn’t agree more re: election addiction. They had inside dope. If a certain sense of impartiality gave Halperin access to Trump and the inner-workings of the campaign, then I say, great. I would argue this would be a must-see doc regardless of who won.

    • VR

      Every time I saw Halperin on Morning Joe he would say “I just don’t see a path for Trump to 270.”

    • “He’s a straight shooter.”

      i.e., heretic.

    • I stopped reading at ‘every day on Morning Joe’

      • Michael Gebert

        I stopped reading at “I stopped reading.”

  • Reverent and free

    There will probably be some score settling of the pundits who laughed Trump off. Probably well-deserved, but still self-serving Monday morning quarterbacking.

  • Magga

    Guess I’ve misunderstood The Great Depression big-time