Late Monday night, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore announced via Twitter that he’d be screening a top-secret movie project Tuesday evening in New York. Accompanying the announcement was an imposing image of the Trump troika—Ivanka, Don Jr., and Eric—giving their best Children of the Corn meets The Skulls, intimating that this would be a takedown of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on a par with Fahrenheit 9/11, his 2004 hit job on George W. Bush. That film went on to gross an inconceivable $222 million worldwide, still the highest-grossing documentary ever, yet failed to tip the election in Democratic rival John Kerry’s favor. Moore “communicates to that far-left sliver that would never vote for Bush, even if there was an election on the moon,” said Scott Reed, the former campaign manager for Bob Dole, at the time.
Though titled Michael Moore in TrumpLand, the acclaimed documentarian’s big “October surprise” has precious little to do with Donald. Instead, the film offers a fairly convincing case for why voters should make Hillary Clinton the first female POTUS.
“What the country doesn’t need is to be told that Trump is a crazy, dangerous psychopath [and] sociopath, all of that,” said Moore, introducing the film’s premiere screening at New York City’s IFC Center. “He has written and produced that movie and it appears daily.”
In the era of WikiLeaks, it’s pretty astonishing that Moore was able to keep his movie under wraps. Filming began 11 days ago, taking place over two nights at the historic Murphy Theatre in Wilmington, Ohio—a city in a county where Trump received four times as many votes as Hillary in the primaries—and the movie was locked at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning. It consists of Moore performing a one-man show in front of a diverse crowd of Hillary/Trump/undecided voters. And, with the exception of a fun little doomsday sketch envisioning what President Trump’s first days in office might look like—mass deportations, bombings along the Mexican border, nationwide stop-and-frisk, and a Roger Ailes-led Trump network airing 24/7—Moore spends the bulk of the film singing Hillary’s praises whilst standing (or sitting) in front of a collection of striking images of young Hillary.
Moore runs through a lot of Hillary’s greatest hits, from her 1969 commencement address at Wellesley to her fight for universal health-care as first lady to the unbelievable amount of sexism she’s had to put up with over the course of her career. He jokes about how the bellowing of Trump’s supporters at his rallies is akin to a “dinosaur” death knell—the near-extinct being old, angry white men—and how “there are going to be internment camps for men” under a President Hillary Clinton. And Moore, who comes off very loose and droll here, even presents a 1998 clip from his short-lived TV series The Awful Truth wherein Donald Trump not only compliments Hillary, calling her “a good woman” who’s “going to be married to our current president for a long time,” but even kisses the butt of Moore.
If this all sounds a bit strange, it should. During the Democratic primary, Moore, an avowed Bernie Sanders supporter, was very tough on Hillary. He branded her “Wall Street’s paid candidate” while live-tweeting the Democratic debate, and back in 2008 said he was “morally prohibited from voting for Hillary” due to her initial support of the Iraq War.
During the film’s post-screening Q&A, when asked by The Daily Beast why he’s changed his tune on Hillary given his past charges levied against her, Moore deviated sharply from the film’s hagiographical script.
“She has a very close relationship with [Wall Street],” said Moore. “If you’ve read any of the Podesta emails—or her emails—you can see that she’s inclined to that… The fight will continue. The Bernie Revolution on Nov. 9th is critical. If we just leave it up to her, she may tend to side with that which she’s become used to.”
“I feel the same way about the Iraq War vote,” he continued. “I don’t feel any less passion about her mistake. If I had my TV show like the one I used to have, I would try to do a segment where I get her to go around on an apology tour to the parents of those who’ve died in the war. If I were her, and if she’s a person of conscience, I think she owes that to at least a few parents.”
Why Hillary, then a junior U.S. senator from New York, should have to go door-to-door apologizing for the Iraq War given that she was only one of 374 people in Congress to vote for the Iraq Resolution—which authorized the president to pursue military action against Iraq—wasn’t fully explained.
But Moore’s post-screening comments aside, TrumpLand’s mission, should the American public choose to accept it when it drops on iTunes on Oct. 19, is to ensure that the orange one gets nowhere near the nuclear codes.
“One of my personal goals—maybe I shouldn’t say this out loud—was to depress the Trump vote. They may still vote for Trump, but they may not bring 10 people with them,” said Moore. “Our biggest opponent on Election Day is getting people out [to the polls] who have given up.”
- Published in Culture