We have all heard plenty about Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but whatever one may believe about Vladimir Putin’s hopes and dreams vis-à-vis the hacking of American democracy, or about the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with a foreign power, leave those assumptions – informed by facts or not – aside and watch documentary director Maxim Pozdorovkin’s fascinating feature-length montage of how Russians view their own involvement in installing Donald J. Trump as our 45th president. Available right now online, Our New President is constructed entirely of Russian media clips from the past 20 years, with heavy emphasis on the run-up to, and aftermath of, 2016. It’s a surreal movie, so crazy that it can’t possibly be true. But it is.
Trump and his minions can deny all they want that Putin helped Republicans win, but no one told the producers of Russian TV not to brag about their own preferences. Time and time again, newscasters refer to the Donald as “nash” (“ours”) and sing his praises. What, one might naturally wonder, motivates this love? Good question. As a former Soviet and Russian specialist (in my life before film school), I saw, first-hand, the USSR transform in the 1990s from a deeply flawed, inegalitarian country with, nevertheless, an idealistic view of the value of egalitarianism to a deeply flawed, inegalitarian country that celebrated extreme wealth with a vengeance, its elite finally allowed to amass vast riches. With his crass, ostentatious display of money, Trump fits right into the post-Soviet narrative of the successful oligarch, his coveting of beautiful women an added bonus. Then again, it’s not only the Russians who love this constructed image, or Trump would not have his admirers over here, as well.
But love him the Russians do, or at least those portrayed here. From mainstream TV personalities to YouTubers, they all chime in. Perhaps most chilling of all is the history of the state takeover of all former independent channels that Pozdorovkin (The Truth About Killer Robots) manages to work in. He’s a clever one, that director, particularly since he makes this hodgepodge of material come together in a unified whole. He had previously made a shorter, 12-minute version of this same idea for Field of Vision, which I recently screened for a group of students where I teach. They marveled at the insanity of it all, and then wondered at the fact that there was now a feature. I assured them it was even better, given that there is the added bonus of a framing narrative about how Hillary Clinton was cursed by a Siberian mummy. Now that’s some mind-blowing fake news! The corruption of the world is endless. Sit back and enjoy.
– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)
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