MIFF Review: Our New President

When’s a documentary not a documentary? When it’s Our New President which is, in essence of itself, a clip show of news snippets, YouTube videos and what can only be described as excerpts from Russia’s Most Bonkers Trump Fans Home Videos. Maxim Pozdorovkin’s barely-a-feature has no real narrative component and brings nothing new to the Trump saga that we don’t already know.

When I sat down in the fairly packed house of this MIFF session last night (Mon 6 Aug) I was disturbed to an uninvited preamble into the film delivered by some self-aggrandising Melbourne University lecturer giving us his five point “this is how I want you to watch this movie” introduction. Stupid, unnecessary, and trying to comment on a film none of us had seen yet, my protestations were joined by many a disgruntled audience member. Listen up, let people make up their own minds before you waltz in unannounced and think you own the room! (Have no fear, friends, I penned a strongly worded tweet to MIFF about it).

Finally, the lights dimmed and Our New President began.

Divided up into eight chapters, this 75 ‘documentary’ starts its journey by the Russian news reporting that, since Hillary Clinton visited the unearthed remains of a warrior princess on her last trip to Russia, she’s basically been cursed. From there it’s news clip after news clip of the Russian reporting on the Democratic hopeful.

Intermittently dispersed within are archival footage sequences of the rise of television in Russia, the establishment of the Russia Today Newtork and the insidious complete takeover of media that the Kremlin has achieved. Though none of this is ever fully explored, it’s certainly the real story at the centre of this.

Labelling itself as a documentary, Our New President posits that the Russian reaction to the Trump/Clinton presidential race, as viewed through the media, will explain the country’s attitude towards its result.

But the film doesn’t do that. It loosely threads together ideas found in video clips and YouTube uploads but, without any sort of narrative voice or interview subjects, it’s more like watching your mate take you through a series of wacky video clips on line. (And some of them are truly gobsmacking, especially the home videos from the Russian people themselves).

Added to that, Our New President doesn’t bring anything new to the table. There’s nothing in this that you don’t already know, bar the State sanctioned controls over the media, and the film has no meat in its exposé. It’s purely for a visceral thrill. Liken it to watching a prolongued Barmiest Home Videos compilation if you will.

Our New President is a missed opportunity whose real story is the Kremlin take over of the news media in Russia and how they played the election to the Russian people. That, my friends, would be one helluva documentary to see.

★★1/2

OUR NEW PRESIDENT screens at MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2018