Reel Reviews | Our New President (Sundance ’18)

by Tim Gordon

Just when you thought the first year of Donald Trump couldn’t get more bizarre comes the look at the election from the Russian perspective in the outlandish documentary, Our New President.

While the American media during the last election focused largely on the foibles of Secretary of Defense Hilary Clinton, including her email server scandal and her role during the attack on Benghazi, they appeared spellbound by the unpredictable candidacy of Trump. Despite belittling his opponents and being caught on tape “grabbing them by the pussy, nothing seemed to stick to the Teflon candidate.

It appears that Americans weren’t the only ones transfixed on the election as it also generated keen interest in the halls of the Kremlin. Led by Russian TV media and a team of hackers, they launched a daily on-going campaign which painted Secretary Clinton as a sick, old, demented woman who if elected would wage World War on their country. Contrasting Clinton’s image, Trump, is portrayed as a swashbuckling businessman whose “rags-to-riches” story has the Russian people mesmerized. Young and old, the Russian people can’t get enough of “The Donald” and his businesswoman and former model wife, Melania.

The brainchild of filmmaker Maxim Pozdorovkin (Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer), Our New President is a film that is just as confused as Trump’s presidency has been for America. The ultimate film filled with fake facts about two candidates that were grossly caricatured, one for the worst (Clinton) and the other for the better (Trump). Based on a collection of videos, that show not just half-truths but outright tall strange lies, Our New President is a propaganda film gone wild on steroids.

One of the challenges this documentary will encounter is that many in the West who remain constantly and consistently appalled by Trump’s behavior will only have a passing interest in sitting through a story that many not just suspected but now feel to be fact. Did the Russians influence the election, perhaps, maybe even probably? The film features statements that confirm that fact, but it also features plenty of hearsay, myths and distortions from the Russian media who take any morsel of news as facts – much like the alternate universe that supporters of conservative FOX News partake in daily.

Disjointed and unevenly executed, Our New President opens and closes with a bizarre myth that tries to explain the root of the Russian disdain for Clinton. Much like the flimsy premise endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, pushed with callousness by the manipulative and dishonest Russian media and used to defame not just Secretary Clinton, but also President Barack Obama and the subject of their affection and later disdain, President Trump.

Pozdorovkin’s subject, Trump, has the lowest approval rating of any modern American President after one year on the job and remains under fire for his callous and racist language, his absolute strange relationship to the truth, as well as his lack of empathy for many of his own citizens and let’s not forget his ties to known racists and their associates. Our New President is a messy, convoluted look at a polarizing unpopular figure who played with Russian fire and ultimately will get burned.

Grade: D