You've Been Trumped!


Written by Sam Price
18 Sunday 18th September 2011

Baxter’s attempts to go deeper in the story resulted in him being intimidated by Trump’s goons, brushed off at press conferences and eventually arrested by the local police.  The flappy-haired businessman, accordingly, comes off like a petulant child knocking over his sandcastles on the beach; whilst the surrounding residents emerge as decent people trying to protect their homes and local heritage.

You’ve Been Trumped! won the Green prize at Sheffield Doc/Fest earlier in the year. I spoke with Baxter as it transferred to the BFI.

Trump’s had his eye on making a golf course in Scotland for some years. Why make this now?

I followed the story a little bit living from afar living in Montrose, which is forty miles south of Aberdeenshire, where he was planning to build to the course. When I started filming it was pretty much a month before they started work. I thought it was important to document work starting, rather than just about the planning process. I think I got to the point where I was becoming quite angry with the coverage in the media locally – really two newspapers, The Press and Journal and The Evening Express - which seemed to ignore the other side of the story which I felt was important, the environmental story. Also when I was thinking about doing filming on the site, I’d spoken to the residents and they’d struck me as being very different people to the ones that were portrayed in the media. Local television enjoyed the spat between Donald Trump and [local farmer] Michael Forbes.

He’s portrayed by Trump as a bumbling idiot.

Yeah, exactly. But the point was they didn’t really ever show Michael, or any of the residents, as the kind of people they really are. I felt at the very least this warranted making something which followed them and showed them for the people that they are, which is unlikely environmentalists. They’re not people who set out to safeguard an environmentally sensitive site, they’re just people who’ve raised their families there, who’ve grown up there and have a great attachment to those sand dunes which are unique in Europe.

But Trump doesn’t seem to see the contradiction between “the unspoiled landscape” and his actions which are ruining it.

I think his argument is it’s a great piece of land for golf. But the point is it’s one of Scotland’s last great wilderness areas. He would claim that the landscape lends itself to golf, and yet he’s reshaping it and moving Biblical amounts of sand to build the golf course of his dreams. The Scottish government believed his claim that it would create lots of jobs. They’d parrot Trump’s figures – “6,000 jobs across Scotland, 1,400 local jobs” – but essentially, economically speaking, this is at the very best a big hotel with a resort and lots of houses. Yes, there’s going to be some construction jobs, but as economist Paul Cheshire says in the film, none of those jobs are going to be local. The puzzling thing to me looking from afar was that nobody seemed to investigate these figures, these claims. It was all taken as fact.

There are filmmakers like Nick Broomfield who are arguably the subjects of their own films, going on a personal moral crusade. Your film starts out a different way, but increasingly you yourself become the subject…

I was never going to be in the film in the first place. I didn’t know where it was going, I didn’t know it was going to end up being a 95 minute documentary. You have to make those decisions about how much put yourself in it. I thought after I was arrested and my colleague Richard [Phinney, producer] as well, it seemed it would be weird if I just popped up. I was hoping to let the local residents do the talking and have me as a documenter rather than, “This is my view.” With Trump I felt there had to be someone asking the right questions, otherwise they wouldn’t be asked. It seems like he’s very happy to answer questions like, “Mr Trump, who’s the first celebrity you’ve got lined up for the first tee?” or “Is the golf course turning out even better than you’d hoped?” Donald Trump Jr. was asked, “Have you tried haggis yet?” It’s just extraordinary.

The film has added in significance – both with Trump’s failed Presidency bid and, to an extent, the fall-out from the recent assault on the Murdoch Empire. We see this rapacious brand of capitalism riding roughshod over ordinary people…

I think people are sick and tired of it. In the Aberdeenshire case, you’ve got two local newspapers who refuse to report the other side of the story. They’ve imposed essentially a news blackout on the film, they’ve never mentioned it. The premiere in Aberdeen where all the residents came, it was a sell-out. According to the Belmont Picturehouse, it was the highest grossing advance ticket sales since the first Harry Potter movie. They completely ignored it, and the story of the environment and the residents, to a degree. The media just didn’t scratch beneath the surface and discover that Michael doesn’t live like a pig. His farm is like any other working farm in Aberdeenshire.  

Is it just convenience then? Profit over the environment?

To be honest I’m slightly baffled by it. I don’t agree with or believe the economics because they’re exploded in the film. In a sense I can understand Trump wanting to have a course in the birthplace of golf to fit into his portfolio. But the kind of numbers talked about in the investment are just absolute nonsense. You have the situation where one of the most environmentally sensitive stretches of land in Europe is being bulldozed for the sake of what? Certainly not economic development.

You’ve Been Trumped is being screened at The Ritzy in Brixton on 25 Sept. For more info and other showings, visit

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