When Anthony Baxter set out to make a documentary critical of Donald Trump’s plans for a golf and residential development on the northeast coast of Scotland, he was told, “I hope you have a good lawyer.”
Baxter couldn’t find investors willing to take on Trump, so he self-funded the film, his first feature-length documentary. He said in an interview Friday at the Hamptons International Film Festival headquarters that he felt passionately that it was a story that needed to be told. “It’s important that people with money and power are held to account like ordinary people.”
Baxter’s criticism is that no one weighed the economic benefits of the project against the environmental costs. “Donald Trump is building a golf resort on … one of Scotland’s last undeveloped wilderness areas,” he said.
“The main cost is we’ve lost a unique sand dune system, which was unique in Europe, let alone in Scotland.” He explained that the dunes, which were destroyed by the development, were a shifting sand dune system that allowed scientists to tell the effects of global warning and climate change on the coast.
And the area where the golf resort is located isn’t hurting for jobs, according to Baxter. There is 1 percent unemployment there, he said. “It isn’t an economy on its knees needing saving by Donald Trump.”
Trump’s development, which includes two golf courses, a luxury hotel and 1,500 one-million-pound-each houses built around the links, was originally turned down by the local authority, but the Scottish government approved the project, saying it was in the country’s economic interest. It was also embraced by the media, Baxter said.
The development was projected to create 6,000 jobs across Scotland. “The film really questions those figures by taking them to a leading economist at the London School of Economics,” Baxter said. The findings were that the project would create closer to zero jobs than 6,000.
Baxter said the luxury hotel would likely be staffed by Eastern Europeans, rather then Scots. “Local people often don’t want the jobs,” he said. “There’s a real issue with those kind of low-pay jobs.”
Baxter could not get Trump to sit for an interview, but he did get the chief groundskeeper of the golf course. That interview led to Baxter’s arrest and the confiscation of his equipment and footage when the groundskeeper, who apparently did not appreciate the filmmaker’s investigation, called the police. Baxter said the police found him while he was at the house of a woman who was upset that elderly neighbors had their water cut off by the Trump organization. The charge was disturbing the peace.
“Six days later they returned the footage and camera equipment,” Baxter said. “Eventually the criminal charge was thrown out by the Crown Office in Scotland.”
The Edinburgh International Film Festival, which is government funded, would not screen the film. But Baxter went on to take it to other festivals around Europe and won a handful of awards, including the Scottish Screen Archive Prize at EdinDocs. “The film will be kept in the vaults on the National Library of Scotland forever,” he said.
Baxter has yet to be sued over the film, though he was in Trump’s sights. “He’s branded the film a failure and me a fraud,” Baxter said.
Baxter said that, in taking his film to the Hamptons, he was conscious of being in Trump’s backyard, and he’s hoping for a U.S. distributor to take on the documentary in the country where Trump toyed with running for president.
“You’ve Been Trumped” will have its East Coast premiere at the Hamptons International Film Festival at 9:45 p.m. Saturday at United Artists East Hampton. It will screen again Sunday at 5:15 p.m. at United Artists Southampton. Click here for tickets.