Our New President, one of the first films shown at True/False Film Fest this year, is a satirical love letter sent by Russia to President Donald Trump. Russian-American director Maxim Pozdorovkin compiled clips of state-controlled Russian media and Russian home videos into a documentary that shows the proselytizing effects of propaganda and “fake news.” It’s the kind of hilarity that you laugh at with a grimace because the conspiracy theories perpetuated by the Russian media are so perverse, yet thousands of people believe them.
“I don’t know if consuming this much propaganda at once is safe, but I can tell you that you probably won’t feel great afterwards,” Pozdorovkin joked to the audience before the movie. “It’s not a feel-good thing. It puts you more in touch with what we’re all living through, the global reality of it all.”
Our New President opens and closes with archaeologists uncovering the skeleton of an ancient princess, which curses “retardation” and “fainting spells” on “old lady” Hillary Clinton. This immediately sets the tone of the movie. In the following hilariously nauseating 78 minutes, the film shows the tactics Russian government and news channels used to ensure Trump’s election.
The movie shows the rise of Putin-controlled Russian media like Russia-1 and the fall of NTV, the nation’s nonpartisan news program. State-controlled news stations boast Trump’s success as a result of Putin’s omnipotent power. Because of this, Russian citizens idolize Trump. This is evident in the home videos shown in Our New President: a pre-teen boy cheers “Trump, brother!” and proudly reveals “TRUMP” written on his inner bicep, someone pierces a Clinton voodoo doll on a pentagram and several Russian citizens serenade Trump after his election. Because the Putin-controlled Russian media portrays Trump as the “troubled teenager from Brooklyn” who grew up to have “a stunning political career and success with women,” Russian citizens flock to him.
Since the majority of the clips are in Russian, English-speaking audiences must rely on subtitles translated by Pozdorovkin. At first, it seems like the translations, and the videos themselves, are fictionalized because of their extremity. But they are what the Russians perceived as true. The level of satire that Pozdorovkin constructs in Our New President mimics Mark Twain’s satirical approach to storytelling: Share a hyperbolic point of view to reveal its shortcomings.
The most interesting part of this documentary was watching the audience’s reactions to some of the clips of Russian media. Some clips garnered grimaces, because the joke was so controversial. For example, one clip shows a Russian journalist comparing one of Ivanka Trump’s silver dresses to a foil blanket used to keep refugees warm. The audience laughed out loud several times during the movie. One particular instance of this was following a clip of a Russian journalist reporting on Trump’s “mental issue,” quickly followed by a montage of Trump compulsively rearranging the nametags, coasters, pencils or whatever is on his desk.
Our New President blurs the line that divides “fake news” and reality. As a journalism student, this movie is both frustrating and enlightening, but I highly recommend it to viewers all over the political spectrum.
Edited by Alexandra Sharp | firstname.lastname@example.org