The Accidental President, Amazon Prime, Apple TV
Just when you thought you’d had your fill of Donald Trump and could happily never think about him again, along comes something which shatters that particular illusion. And so it is with ‘The Accidental President’, which looks at the 2016 Presidential election and how Donald Trump won the White House.
The 106 minute long film/documentary charts the rise of Trump and explains it in a particularly unique and engaging manner. There’s neither a presenter or a narrator, which in some ways both innovative and brave. In theory it makes it much more difficult to tell a story and come to a conclusion, but the skill of this film is that the mix of original footage, vox pops and pundit interviews fulfil that task rendering the need for a narrator null and void.
It is the first feature length film made by British documentary maker James Fletcher, who I first knew thirteen years ago when he was making his name in London, making films for David Cameron and advising him on his WebCameron project. He has since moved to New York and is married to CNN presenter Brooke Baldwin.
‘The Accidental President’ doesn’t just explain why Trump lost, but also why Hillary Clinton lost. At the end of the film you’re left thinking to yourself, well, that was bleeding obvious now I come to think about it, but it is the film that puts the jigsaw pieces together.
One of the lightbulb moments is when the various pundits are asked what Trump’s campaign slogan was. “Make America Great Again”, they all say, one after the other. The same pundits are then asked what Hillary’s was. They all gulp like goldfishes. I couldn’t remember it either. We are then shown her plane which has ‘Stronger Together’ emblazoned on the side. Nope, me neither. It was such a simple way of demonstrating something which was in many ways very obvious. But it was a real lightbulb moment.
Trump didn’t just win because Hillary was the wrong choice by the Democrats and she ran a terrible campaign. He didn’t just win because Hillary was regally elitist. He won because he managed to tap into a malcontent in Middle America which had been latent for twenty or thirty years. We saw the first signs of it with the growth of the Tea Party in the early noughties. Sarah Palin embodied it in human form. She made it acceptable to embellish. She made it acceptable to exaggerate. She was unembarrassable, no matter how ridiculous some of things she said were.
Trump built on Palin’s legacy and knew how to press the buttons of various demographics. And the Washington, New York and Los Angeles media didn’t get it. They talked to each other on their interminable panels without thinking about actually talking to real voters to understand what was going on. And that’s where this film is so skilful. It shafts the media, without on the face of it appearing to do so. It highlights the many times supposedly well informed pundits totally wrote off Trump’s prospect, which demonstrated they never had a clue about his pulling power with millions of Americans. And they still don’t. That’s the tragedy of it.
One other point to note is the superb use of graphics and digital content through the 106 minutes. It really added something to the experience.
Thousands of trees will be felled over the next decade in order to make paper for the hundreds of books which will be published analysing the last four years. Few books will offer more insight than James Fletcher’s film.
The sad part is that many people will be put off watching it because it’s not free to air. On Amazon Prime you have to pay £4.99 to watch it and it’s a little more on Apple. I understand why, but given people expect to watch stuff like this for free, I wonder how big its reach will be. The sooner it becomes free to air the better.