Friday, May 27, 2016

Filmmaker Robert Greene Critiques the Trump "Performance"


Robert Greene is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. His work frequently mines the area of life where "performance" and "real life" intersect. His 2011 doc FAKE IT SO REAL takes us into the real/fake world of backyard wrestlers as they live through their personas. More recently, his film ACTRESS shows us how the "real" life of his subject is inextricably tied into her life as a performer. His newest film KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE takes us into the process as actress Kate Lyn Sheil prepares to play a tragic real life figure.

It should therefore come as no surprise that his main interest in Donald Trump, candidate, is in the performance aspect. Trump's spokespeople have admitted that much of his bluster is a theatrical gambit, and in a new article for the British Film Institute's website, Greene goes much more deeply into the nature of Trump's persona. He opines that Trump may be an example of "a kind of documentary performance run amok."

Here's an excerpt:
"The idea that where there’s a camera, there’s a performance might be second nature to filmmakers, critics and media professionals, but ask any documentarian who’s been challenged on the authenticity of his or her material just how stubbornly this lack of awareness persists. As a filmmaker and editor I’d say the dialectical relationship between the authentic and the manufactured in a documentary goes to the heart of the art form itself, that documentary performance – the process by which everyday performances of identity are captured and magnified by the camera and in editing – is a key part of the deeply contradictory tension at the heart of all reality-based media. Yet general audiences understandably cling to the idea that when we tell them something is ‘real’, that means it’s real.

"Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that in the similarly contradictory world of politics, a instinctual documentary performer like Trump could manipulate his way to the top. The fact that his polls seem to rise with every awful utterance surely epitomises some of the most racist, sexist, machismo-fetishising, Islamophobic aspects of the Republican Party, but it also might represent a grotesque inflation – and perhaps collapse – of the idea of political performance that have long dominated presidential politics. Trump might essentially be ‘Trump-proof’ with his supporters because they recognise, at some level, that he’s just playing a part, putting on a show, doing what every presidential candidate has done since JFK learned to manipulate television images – just to a louder and trashier/less snobby degree (more Real Housewives than Primary). There are issues that Trump really believes in, one must assume, but you’d be hard-pressed to make any coherent assessment of his platform based on his public persona. He barely talks about political issues at all, preferring instead to lob jabs in a manner he likely learned in the rough and tumble of New York real estate, and perfected while working with Vince McMahon in the WWE."

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