Our New President (USA, 77 minutes)
Dir: Maxim Pozdorovkin
Programme: Special Presentations .(Canadian Premiere)
With its relentless montages of 21st century Russian propaganda, Our New President plays like a fever dream of how the Kremlin hyped its take on the 2016 American presidential election. According to the doc, a barrage of “fake news” won over Russians and in the USA, influenced the result. The mocking title “Our New President” implies that Russians, swayed by the propaganda, elected Trump.
The movie focuses on RT (Russia Today), the government run news channel, which has built huge viewership at home and internationally. Pozdorovkin, who directed Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, probes RT’s operating philosophy via network honchos like Dimitri Kiselyov, seen pontificating on air.
Apparently, there is no such thing as objectivity; only love of Russia matters. Years ago freethinking, critical outlet NTV was disbanded, and in 2013, Putin yoked all of the news agencies into RT. The big shots prefer catch phrases like “informational pancakes” and “alternative facts” to “propaganda.” Back in the day, Russian persuasive techniques were bleak and hectoring. In the 21st century, the goals are similar, but now the on air purveyors of “alternative facts” are expensively dressed, well coiffed personalities who look ready for Fox.
Much of the doc highlights RT’s takedown of Hilary Clinton, which parallels online Russian trolling of Facebook and other social media. The utterly idiotic stories about her include the child sex ring in the pizzeria hallucination, frequent use of the word “retarded,” and footage that purports to expose her non-existent diseases. Hillary is “Killary,” a reference to mysterious deaths in her orbit, and supposed murder conspiracies. Drugs are everywhere, RT claims, and a black man with a syringe is always by her side.
As for the Obamas, when the former president meets the new one in the Oval Office, Obama, according to an RT commentator, touched Trump like he was “in the jungle” while the new president had the dignity of an “English lord.” Hillary footage constantly portrays her as a cackling witch, or on the verge of a health meltdown while RT celebrates Trump as if he were Abraham Lincoln.
In drooling, hero-worshipping reverence for Trump, he is a golden prince. A white prince of course. He doesn’t smoke or drink; we visit his wonderful childhood home, and a voiceover announces, there is finally a beautiful woman in the White House. Unlike Michelle, Melania disdains “dirt and gardening tools.”
The doc cuts between RT’s coverage and ordinary Russians expressing mindless, even lunatic and racist, misogynist reactions to the 2016 election. The implication is that they’ve unquestioningly swallowed the message. “A woman cannot become president,” says a guy in some frozen hinterland. A man has embossed images of Trump and Putin on his teeth. We see hands sticking pins into a Hillary doll. She’s a witch, an accusation that was hurled at one of the Pussy Riot girls. In one scary moment, a frenzied 10-year-old boy attempts to rap in praise of Trump, the president’s name stamped on his bicep.
Our New President doesn’t overtly comment. There’s no talking head analysis. Pozdorovkin allows RT and the entire propaganda apparatus to deconstruct itself.
Hot Docs runs April 26 to May 6. Please visit hotdocs.ca for more info.