Does America have a more laughably contemptible public figure than Donald Trump? He used to be just laughably odious, but then he jumped on the birther bandwagon last winter to try to jack up ratings for his TV show. Anyway, for the past half-dozen years Scotland has been having to put up with him, too. The Donald has been developing a golf resort costing $1.6 billion near Aberdeen, on the North Sea coast. “I’m going to build for the people of Scotland the greatest golf course in the world,” he declares in “You’ve Been Trumped.” “There’ll be nothing like it.” Local opposition to his Caledonian foray — opponents think he’s building it for wealthy Americans, not them — is the subject of the documentary.
If the storyline “American tycoon bumps up against skeptical Scottish locals” sounds familiar, that might be because you’ve seen Bill Forsyth’s one-of-a-kind 1983 comedy, “Local Hero.” In fact, the documentary includes several clips from “Local Hero.” Alas, the outcome is nowhere near as happy as in Forsyth’s film, in large part because Trump is to Burt Lancaster as Spam is to haggis. The fact that the Aberdeen council rejected Trump’s proposal, only to have the Scottish Parliament overrule the local authorities indicates how much the deck is stacked in the casino magnate’s favor.
The title of “You’ve Been Trumped” puns on the Donald’s surname, of course, and his TV catchphrase, “You’re fired.” The question is to whom does the “you” refer: the big American fish or the many little Scottish ones?
It’s plain whose side director Anthony Baxter is on. And this is well before the scene where police handcuff him at the behest of Trump employees, let alone the one at an Aberdeen press conference where he badgers Trump with hostile questions. Baxter sets up the film as a point/counterpoint. He presents footage of Trump at various Scottish photo ops, invariably arriving, as one bemused local puts it, in “his top-of-the-range Range Rover.” At one point a microphone picks up Trump asking an aide, “Is my hair OK?” (Had Baxter wanted a shorter title, he could have gone with “Bravehair.”) In a comment that’s more public, if less plausible, Trump confides that “I happen to be a very truthful person.”
The counterpoint consists of scenes with the farmers and fishermen and other residents who are members of an organization called Tripping Up Trump. Maybe it should have been called Occupy Combover. Environmentalists oppose the development, too, as it necessitates the destruction of endangered beach dunes. “When I finish, it’ll be far more beautiful,” Trump tells David Letterman, in a clip from “The Late Show.” In the same appearance, he puts Aberdeen on the wrong coast. Well, he’ll presumably make that more beautiful, too.
Chief among Trump’s local opponents is Michael Forbes. Forbes is feisty and gnarly, yet he displays nearly superhuman patience when he loses all running water. His property adjoins the development — “He lives like a pig,” Trump blithely (and repeatedly) says to the media about Forbes (talk about calling the kettle black!) — and the problem was caused by Trump construction equipment. Maybe it was an accident, and maybe it wasn’t. The berm blocking another opponent’s ocean view was definitely put there on purpose. Baxter offers a clip from a Trump golf show where he gleefully says as much.
The biggest problem with the documentary, besides the overexposure of its namesake, is length. Do we need the several appearances by the articulate local Green Party councilor denouncing Trump? Yes. The art show of anti-Trump paintings? Probably not. The scenes with the ex-Clash producer who lives near Forbes? Not really. It’s almost as if Baxter keeps hanging on, hoping for a happy outcome. And it’s true we learn that compulsory purchase orders, the Scottish equivalent of eminent domain, won’t be used on Forbes and other abutters. But in July (too late for inclusion in the film) Trump opened the first golf course at the development. The only thing holding back further construction is Trump’s threatening to stop if a proposed wind farm is approved. It would affect views from the development.
Of course he could always put up a berm.
Mark Feeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.