Documentary directed by Alison Klayman
Playing IFC Center, Landmark at 57 West
They say victory has a hundred fathers, but Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign seems to have mostly drunk uncles.
The most notorious, or at least the most watchable, is Steve Bannon, the Wall Streeter turned film exec turned Breitbart News rabble-rouser turned political puppet-master. Art house documentarian Errol Morris brought a challenging “dialogue film” called “American Dharma” to this year’s New York Film Festival, but Alison Klayman’s “cinéma vérité”-style movie “The Brink” stayed embedded with Bannon for months on his frenzied post-White House rebranding tour.
Drumming up business for his upstart new quasi-party “The Movement,” Trump’s former strategist met with would-be congressional candidates in the U.S. and far-right leaders in Europe. He talks about economic success for the little guy (as he stays in five-stars and flies private jets), but internet-enhanced rage and xenophobia keep up the momentum. Klayman’s camera catches it all at banquet hall speeches and dinners. It is a fascinating and fast-paced exposé of the rapidly shifting world of international politics.
Regardless of whether you are pro- or anti-Bannon, “The Brink” shows a man who is hard working, even if you are unsure if he believes the things he’s saying. He seems, at times, too smart to not be a troll.
He delights in pushing people’s buttons, like intentionally using the term “globalist” despite being told that many consider it an anti-Semitic dogwhistle. This becomes less playful after the shooting attacks in the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue, but Bannon won’t back down, ever.
Those who seethe at his very name won’t exactly have their minds changed, but may need to check themselves. Without advocating his philosophy, it is fair to say that the guy can be witty on stage and charming off. That is, no doubt, part of how he got to be a power player in the first place.
Those who admire Bannon’s impish ways are likely to only to admire him more after seeing the movie. But the close proximity may poke holes in theories of him being a great mastermind. He’s a human with insecurities and aggravations, who winces when eating gross green juice like the rest of us.
Though the 2018 midterms didn’t go his way (and “The Brink” is witness to that) all eyes now are on Europe, and the many Nationalist parties that have aligned themselves with Bannon’s “Movement.” Only time will tell if we’ll end up getting a sequel.