Donald Trump is perhaps best known for having hair that’s more ridiculous than seems possible, refusing to believe that Barack Obama is American, and shouting You’re fired! at hapless business idiots on The Apprentice. However, he is also extremely keen on golf, and making as much money as possible.
These final two interests came together in 2006, when Trump decided he wanted to build ˜The world’s greatest golf course’ and purchased the Menie estate in North West Scotland on which to do so. This was a surprising choice, both because Trump’s hair seemed unlikely to be able to cope with Scotland’s coastal winds, and because the site was a place of spectacular natural beauty and an area of special scientific interest. Therefore receiving planning permission to build a golf course appeared to be almost out of the question. Indeed, it was initially rejected by the council, at which point the Scottish government took the unprecedented step of taking responsibility for the decision out of the council’s hands, and deciding themselves. In November 2008, Trump received the go-ahead for his plans.
It was around this time that Anthony Baxter picked up his camera and started recording events. He was particularly interested in the stories of some of the locals living around the site of the proposed development. Many residents feared that the government would order Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) on their properties “ forcing them to sell to Trump, who felt their dwellings would spoil the view of the guests at his hotel and wanted to knock them down. In fact, the government didn’t order CPOs, but didn’t rule them out either, meaning the locals who refused to sell up lived on under the threat of losing their homes.
It is these people, and their treatment at the hands of Trump’s organisation that is at the centre of You’ve Been Trumped. Baxter meets them, hears their stories and sees the impact of the development on them, and the landscape in which they live, recording the changes as the unique dune system in the area disappears. He also points his camera at things that a cynic might suggest were Trump trying to drive these people out “ security cars lingering outside their homes, huge banks of earth being built to ruin their views, the spring that provides their water being hit by machinery. Baxter himself is at one point arrested for his filming. Meanwhile, Trump appears on local TV, outlining the overwhelming local support for his project.
You’ve Been Trumped is documentary as polemic. Baxter is clearly furious about the behaviour of Trump’s organisation, and the authorities in Scotland that have allowed it to happen. He doesn’t try to present a balanced argument, but to persuade the viewer about his view of events. And he does a good job “ while the segment showing old videos of the locals’ lives through the years is a touch sepia-tinted and heavy handed, the evidence of his own camera is persuasive, as is the testimony of interviewees such as an RSPB expert who laments the ecosystem being lost. To be fair to Baxter, he does try to offer balance by inviting Trump or one of his team to be interviewed many times, always rejected.
While inspiring anger at what is taking place, the film also warms the heart in its depiction of the residents, standing up to the corporate steamroller, getting on with their lives, unbowed, always with the threat of eviction over their heads. And at the time of writing, the threat remains, the issues are still unresolved. The residents are still there, and development of the course is now on hold, with Trump threatening to pull out if plans for an offshore windfarm nearby go ahead, on the grounds that this too, will ruin his guests’ views. And Trump’s response to the film’s implications that he tried to bully the residents to achieve his goals? He took to Twitter to call Baxter a ˜stupid fool’ with ˜zero talent’ and suggested he quit filmmaking. The Trump organisation described the movie as propaganda and used threats of legal action to try to prevent the BBC from screening it, as well as calling for them to fire their Head of Vision for allowing it to be shown. Bullying tactics? Them?