A documentary crew follow former Trump strategist Steve Bannon as he travels around the states and Europe ahead of the US midterms and the European elections. He endeavours to further the cause of populism and nationalism in the western world by advising political parties on how to use hate as a motivator.
The film portrays Bannon and his actions fairly plainly. Context cards and newsreel footage demonstrate the impact of the policies and agenda he is furthering, describing the Muslim Travel Ban as his great success whilst showing footage of immigrants being chased and attacked across the world. Fascinating moments show how Bannon and his team distance themselves from violent activists with semantics. There are prolonged periods of the film dedicated to Bannon and his fears of a new axis of superpowers.
Bannon is, however, demonstrated to be a highly effective political animal. He’s charming and self-deprecating. He’s a great speaker and an affable man. It’s very fun to see a reporter call him on his faux bonne amie after a particularly fraught interview. For the most part though, Bannon effortlessly beguiles the people around him. He’s a frightening puppet master whose influence has perhaps been underestimated.
The film does feel very critical of Bannon and his agenda, which makes one marvel at just how candid he is with the documentary crew. Perhaps this is part of his hubris and overconfidence. But perhaps he has more sinister intentions. In one scene he recalls Trump paraphrasing the well-known idiom “there is no bad press” and in another scene tells a reporter from the Guardian that even though his piece will be critical, Bannon still thinks he will convert 20% of the guardian reader audience. Perhaps the most upsetting idea of the film is that even this piece just plainly presenting the man as an opportunist and a charlatan will serve as propaganda (a term he uses gladly) for his hateful cause.
At the very end of the movie the director spotlights some of the voices of young black women elected in the US midterms. It’s a beacon of hope and love amidst a truly miserable political landscape in which desperate people are reduced to targets or photo-ops. A rich political elite is filmed discussing how best to manipulate the working man whilst eating in exclusive luxury eateries and private residences. This film is likely to be a tough but perhaps necessary watch for any who would stand against nationalism and the politics of fear and hate.