OUR NEW PRESIDENT

FAKE NEWS HAS NEVER BEEN SO AIMLESS

ANTENNA DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
By Connor Dalton
9th October 2018

There's no shortage of compelling ideas present in Maxim Pozdorovkin’s documentary ‘Our New President’, but that proves unfortunate when it consistently disinclines to explore why. The premise of chronicling Donald Trump’s rise to presidency through the lens of Russian propaganda certainly has the potential to be captivating. Yet, along with confusing presentation for analysis, the film’s inept sense of coherence and lack of a guiding voice amounts to a miscellany of disinteresting acclamations devoid of any insight. It’s tough to even label it a documentary, with the 77-minute runtime content with just compiling a hodgepodge of Russian news clips and civilian videos. The film occasionally wants to convey an absorbing thesis, but for the boundless stranger-than-fiction possibilities, it’s a tedious affair that offers little to stimulate.

Serving as an accentuation of the “fake news” phenomenon, the film portrays the embroilment between American politics and Russian interference in the 2016 election through Russian media. Russian president Vladimir Putin understands how news broadcasting can operate as an efficient instrument in promoting viewpoints that favour his government, and first and foremost he wanted to impart that Hillary Clinton was evil and Donald Trump was great. Scandals are fabricated of Clinton’s murderous exploits and a rapidly crippling illness clouding her competency as a leader, while the government schemed to have Trump assassinated during his inauguration amidst other over-the-top falsehoods. The documentary’s alternate look of Trump’s rise to power highlights the stronghold media can have on a given country, and in the case of Russia, how it has influenced the views of its wider populace.

'OUR NEW PRESIDENT' TRAILER

‘Our New President’ begins with an awkward sequence about a discovery of bones which many believe are that of an ancient Russian princess, and in coming into contact with Hillary Clinton, the princess curses her. The sequence is poorly crafted and speaks to the film’s greatest issues; it is structurally calamitous and imbues no complexity to its subject matter beyond the surface level. The film is content with just stringing together clips from a Russian television channel and videos from Russian citizens pontificating their disdain for Clinton and admiration for Trump. Sure, it offers an alien juxtaposition to Western political consumption, but chronologically presenting clips doesn’t service a narrative. The premise is quickly exerted, as Pozdorovkin never has any meaningful point to make beyond highlighting how preposterous the propaganda is. Yes, it is irregular to see a young boy with a Trump tattoo, and it is despicable seeing Russian news outlets report Clinton is slipping into "retardation"! But it is lazy and heavy-handed, and only worsened by an inherent lack of depth.

It is tremendously frustrating how little the footage used ultimately amounts to; it’s a trial of media without any culmination. There can be documentaries that revolve around archival media to dramatically insert the viewer, but it still needs to escalate an overarching argument and or narrative, which is something ‘Our New President’ can never firmly grasp. Aside from mild bewilderment, the decision to not stray beyond chronology detrimentally limits the film’s capacity for insight. Which is an opportunity wasted frankly; say what you will about figures like Trump, Clinton and Putin, divisive as they may be, they are indisputably larger-than-life and ideal candidates for examination in the documentary format. ‘Our New President’ believes too much in where it holds an edge, and the film is so free of cognisance that you can never feel fully immersed.

Pozdorovkin never has any meaningful point to make beyond highlighting how preposterous the propaganda is. Yes, it is irregular to see a young boy with a Trump tattoo, and it is despicable seeing Russian news outlets report Clinton is slipping into "retardation"! But it is lazy and heavy-handed only worsened by an inherent lack of depth.

Granted, the film is able to capably point out the omnipotence of Putin’s media presence, and how effectively he can dispose of a freedom of speech tool into an implement to give his ideologies a voice. Despite the film not expressing its topics well, ‘Our New President’ is certainly trying to say something - it’s just buried in a futile scattershot to ever do so with conviction. It tries shining a light on the fog-and-mirrors sensationalism of the facades upheld by Russian media competently, but by then the point is made in vain. When it seems close to noting something of value, its momentum dissipates as it falls back into unstructured compilations and can never utilise the appealing ideas at its disposal.

For a film that proves unrelentingly insipid and misguided, ‘Our New President’ offers very few redeeming qualities. It can’t be faulted for trying to do something ambitious with a subject matter that almost everyone has an opinion towards, but by the same token, the creative direction is haphazard from the onset. It’s inevitable that the likes of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will be the subject of many enthralling documentaries as time passes by, but ‘Our New President’ doesn’t serve as the first in that bracket.

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