When British indie film director Anthony Baxter heard that real-estate baron Donald Trump was planning to build a luxury golf resort near the Scottish farming town of Balmedie, he thought the news coverage was suspicious. The glowingly positive buzz around the course couldn’t be telling the whole story.
“The media coverage around the golf course didn’t have the skeptical angle you’d expect, which seemed very odd,” Baxter said. So he decided to provide that angle himself. He set off for Aberdeenshire, the county where Trump was building the course, and the documentary You’ve Been Trumped began to take form.
According to the BBC, Trump called the wind farm “the destruction of Aberdeen and Scotland itself.”
Spanning the year-long construction of Trump’s first Aberdeenshire golf course—Trump plans to eventually build three courses and a 450-room luxury hotel—the film provides the critical inspection missing from mainstream media accounts. It exposes irreparable environmental damage to an area of pristine seaside dunes designated as a “Site of Special Scientific Interest”, suspiciously complicit government action, and shameless bullying by the Trump Organization.
The seaside dunes of Aberdeenshire. Photo by Bryan Watson.
The documentary has no narrator. Instead, the Aberdeenshire farmers living at the edge of Trump’s course, and other locals, tell the story themselves. Baxter’s film juxtaposes footage of the simple reality of the farmers’ lives shot on handheld cameras with the glossy, pre-cooked media promotion of Trump and his project. “David and Goliath” meets “The Little Engine That Could” as families carry on a drawn-out struggle of increasing difficulty against a monolithic corporate force willing to manipulate and harass in pursuit of its goals—disputing property lines, cutting off water, and Trump himself publicly insulting locals who resisted the project.
The documentary team wrapped up their filming in 2010, but the conflict between Trump and the residents of Aberdeenshire continues. Earlier this week, the Scottish government approved plans for an offshore wind farm, despite Trump’s promise to scrap plans for a luxury hotel if the turbines were built due to his belief that they would spoil the view for golfers. According to the BBC, Trump called the wind farm “the destruction of Aberdeen and Scotland itself,” and issued a round of lawsuit threats.
Both the documentary and the residents of Aberdeenshire have won further victories in the form of global recognition. You’ve Been Trumped has received 10 major industry awards as well as universal critical acclaim, while IMDb users gave it the highest rating of any British film listed in the Internet database. In recognition of the locals’ struggles, The Scotsman named local farmer Michael Forbes, the face of the anti-Trump effort, “Scotsman of the Year.”
“It’s made me more committed to trying to get to the truth,” Baxter said, encouraged by the film’s success despite earlier skepticism from industry executives. “It just goes to show that you’ve got to make the film you want to make and follow your heart in telling a story. And by doing that, you will win through in the end.”