The Destiny of Pictures: The Donald’s Hollywood on the Potomac

Destiny films presents ‘North Korea Singapore Summit Video,’ Directed by Donald Trump, produced by the National Security Council

I have been the film columnist for this magazine for 15 years and for many years before that was the film critic for CBC television in Winnipeg. I admit that I had become jaded watching Hollywood producers, year after swampy year, pull from their filmy top hats the same old tired cinematic rabbit tricks, so I take special delight in being able to review a movie masterpiece. I am referring, of course, to the four-minute-and-two-second video created by the National Security Council (NSC) and directed by Donald Trump, the 45th and current president of the United States. Initially, I want to register a critical warning: Don’t be fooled by the fake reviews that call this work of genius merely “a movie trailer.” In duration it may be a haiku, tweety-short and quickly moving, but its effect is Proustian, rich and complex and magnificently persuasive. Never in the history of cinema has so much been produced from so little.

We now have evidence that, just as he is doing with the United States, Director Trump is equally capable of and intent on making American film great again. He has set up a film production company called OMNIPOTUS Films (OPF). We need look no further than the launch of what promises to be the first of a series of geopolitically astute, nation-building films, starring The Donald, in which his mastery of foreign policy and deal making is justly foregrounded and celebrated. The company’s first film was released on the occasion of the Singapore summit between the president and Chairman Kim Jong-un in June of this year. Under the rubric Destiny Films, a White House Production, the North Korean delegation was treated to an absolutely unique film experience.

I hardly know where to begin. I can start with the ostensible purpose of the film: to persuade Kim to abandon his old-fashioned and bleak autocracy and embrace a full-speed-ahead, colourfully rampant capitalism. The visual pitch is irresistible. Instead of pictures of grimy makeshift cities, empty grocery stores, cropless fields and an abandoned bicycle, the Destiny Films’ version of North Korea’s future is skyscraper-dense cities, hotel-lined beaches, high-speed trains and powerboats, and rows of incubators filled with healthy, soon-to-be-productive babies. Certainly the most beautiful sequence is a helicopter shot of five white horses plashing through a vast expanse of shallow water. But Director Trump must have been aware of the danger of swaying his viewers with only romance, so when the script intones that “the doors of opportunity are ready to be opened” in a dazzling reification, we see a door being pushed open. It takes a special kind of sophistication to recognize the need in the film for both poetics and pragmatics, for the lifting and the literal. Trump’s direction is impeccable in sensing precisely when to shift gears. His engine never whines.

Prosperity comes in colour in the film and it is American; poverty is trapped in black and white and is the palette of North Korea. OPF’s contrasting presentation is brilliant, as is the almost Joycean complexity of its layered images. When we see black and white footage of Korean soldiers patrolling a barbed wire fence just after the end of the Korean War, circa 1953, the scene does double duty; it reminds us of the opportunity of taking down an inadequate wall, while it draws renewed attention to the president’s focus in building one of his own.

The film’s script is wondrous in its offering of a story of opportunity and new beginning. “Two men, two leaders, one destiny” we hear the narrator say in voiceover, and we are given exquisite aerial shots of the sun bursting through fluffy clouds and shining benevolently on various landscapes. (The sun is featured so many times in the film that some consideration was given to acknowledging it in the end credits, but the NSC decided that might take some of the lustre off President Trump’s appearances. The sun, in a matter of speaking, was fired.)

But the choice faced by these two great leaders has been dramatically set. Will it be light or darkness? The quandary occasions the film’s most virtuosic sequence. This whole section is simply indescribable in its conceptual density. If Kim chooses to move back, the result will be a kind of obliteration; to carry this message the film stock starts to burn and we are left with degradation, of both his nation and his displeasure in not being able to continue watching this entertaining film. But if he chooses to move forward, everything changes; the film leader counts backwards from three to one and then we see the shot that could easily win Trump an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. The missiles that had been fired are sucked back into their launching silos, like reverse birthday candles, and war is avoided. The narrator tells us “a new world can begin today,” and suddenly we are treated to the miracle of colour. It is a film sequence that leaves you speechless. I don’t think I’ve ever seen directing that comes close to this level of achievement.

I have suggested that Director Trump should be nominated for an Oscar but, of course, that is impossible, given Hollywood’s known antagonism to the president in both his political and thespian roles. (Mr Trump does not like the word “thespian,” since the sound of it makes him uneasy.) As a result, he and his supporters have decided to establish a competitive alternative to the Academy Awards. It will be held at Mar-a-Lago and will be named the Can-Can Film Awards.

OMNIPOTUS Films is releasing some advance information about the ceremony: exclusive broadcast rights have been awarded to Fox News, the National Rifle Association will be the main sponsor for the event and will give annual membership cards and a small handgun to all nominees, and the annual John Wayne Memorial Award will be chosen and awarded by Clint Eastwood. The Oscar will be replaced by the Ivanka.

Nominees will appear on the Mar-a-Lago Red Carpet, but Trump has a lawsuit pending against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for illegally using Republican Red in their awards ceremony. He has asked the Supreme Court to issue a Cease and Desist order and, once issued, has insisted that it be delivered by the inexcusable recusable Jeff Sessions.

While on the subject of lawsuits, there is a rumour that President Trump, who is litigiously promiscuous, is also launching a lawsuit against George Lucas for stealing the name Star Wars for his famous film series. Trump is arguing that he is the appropriate owner of the name and that he is legally entitled to attach it to the operations of the new branch of the military he is proposing. His position seems to be that Mr Lucas was engaged in a futuristic, crystal-ball appropriation of intellectual property, and while he is self-admittedly not an intellectual, Mr Trump likes to sue any time he encounters the word “property.” The rumours out of Mar-a-Lago are fast and furious, and in all cases the sources are “anonymous and not authorized to speak.” That said, it is now common practice for everyone who makes unauthorized statements to claim possession of secret recordings that will support whatever they are not authorized to say.

Sources close to the president admit that the first few awards ceremonies might be less well represented than he would like. As a result, he has modestly offered to allow his name to stand as the sole nominee in any and all categories. He is a shoo-in for the OMNIPOTUS Award for the Best Misspoken Performance by a Sitting Politician. His embodiment of misspeaking or leaky diction in The Helsinki Capers was simply astonishing. Who will ever forget the clarity of his would/wouldn’t soliloquy? And if that weren’t enough, the eloquent economy and perfect phrasing of his post-Helsinki interview have already become the stuff of legend: “So you can put that in and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.” Even if there were other nominees, how could anyone compete?

There are a number of categories that others can—and should— win, which will make it unnecessary—and unseemly—for an overly large number of single-name ballots. The Scaramucci Award for the Shortest Performance by an Oval Office Employee, the Omarosa Best Tearful Performance by a Lowlife Former Oval Office Intimate, the Rudy Giuliani Sustained Performance by an Apparently Insane Litigator, and the Sean Spicer Award for Deficiency in Estimating Crowd Size can legitimately be awarded to others for their inspired performances.

But there are two categories that promise to be particularly entertaining, and both have come out of the deftly humane way in which President Trump has handled the various complications of The Refugee Files, a series that Destiny Films has been producing throughout his first year and a half in office. Jeff Sessions is a front-runner in the Best Performance by a Biblical Scholar for his crystal-clear and wise application of Paul 13:1 in defense of the administration’s policy of separating parents and children. Without a need for too much exegesis, the Pauline section in question tells us to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes. Sessions’s reading of scripture has occasioned the need for another special tribute segment during the awards ceremony to honour DW Griffith’s 1915 silent film epic, The Birth of a Nation, since it used the same verse and chapter to justify slavery. A spokesperson for Mar-a-Lago would not confirm the rumour that Tin Can Can will have POTUS sign an Executive Order changing the Griffith classic back to its original title, The Clansman. It goes without saying that there are good reasons on both sides.

But the child/parent separation issue has provoked one of the most unforgettable performances by a writer in the broadcast medium. Ann Coulter’s performance during a Fox News panel, warning the president not to fall for the fake actors playing out scenes of emotional trauma and anguish, including the mother who was handcuffed after complaining about having her child, whom she was breastfeeding, taken from her, was stellar. Nothing like it has ever been said, or said with such passionate intensity. Ms Coulter deserves an award of her own, but in the early going she will preside over the jury that will choose the Lady Macbeth Sweet Suckling Award for Best Actress and Supporting Child in acting out an interrupted breastfeeding scene.

Anonymous sources have claimed that the child actors are from two studios in competition with OMNIPOTUS Films, one controlled by the Democrats, who have gone to Hollywood and hired dark-skinned, short people, rehearsed their scripts with them, and then smuggled them into the internment camps to do their fake acting. The second studio is even more ominous because of its political implications. The anguished children appear to be groups of 8- to 10-year-olds who are forming agitprop theatre companies inside the detention centres and then acting out fake emotions of fear and loss.

Given these developments, let me make an immodest proposal about the future of OMNIPOTUS Films and the destiny of America’s motion picture industry. Trump and company have a monopoly on unbelievable performances and their success will spawn more and more ambitious films. Trump has a fondness for history, so don’t be surprised to see an epic called Tardy Muskets: The War of 1814. Watch for The Tweety of Versailles, a contemporary revisioning of the peace treaty that ended WWI, in which Angela Merkel is forced to surrender on behalf of Germany. President Trump plans to star in a POTUS MAXIMUS, a history film in the Roman Revival style. He knows that for aesthetic reasons he can’t take off his shirt and ride around on a horse the way his idol, President Putin, does, so he will settle for a slimming, voluminous toga. He has been systematically studying the films of Benito Mussolini; Trump adores the strong-jawed downward gaze that the Italian Fascist perfected and he has told himself it will make his performance in POTUS MAXIMUS a benchmark. Finally, he wants to conquer the horror genre. He has in mind a brilliant, multi-layered hybrid of A Christmas Carol and a Korean War film, in which a successful tycoon named Mr Splooge is haunted by a cadaverous collection of parents whose sons were killed in the Korean War and who launch a class action suit for misrepresenting them in public even when they weren’t alive. You can see the reason for my unbridled cinematic optimism.

Mr Trump has said that American film will not go the way of “Europe and other places” in the world and become a country plagued by migrant camps and refugee-holding facilities. “Not on my watch,” he declared on June 18, just after Father’s Day. There is an emerging story, again unsubstantiated, that Destiny Films is planning another extravagant epic to be released before the presidential elections in 2020. It’s a history film about a new world order, and in honour of his evangelical supporters, and to show some sympathy for his beleaguered attorney general, it is based on Psalm 90. The film will be called The Watch That Ends the Light.

Volume 37, Number 3: Painting

This article originally appeared in Border Crossings #147, published August 2018.

Border Crossings looks at contemporary art with interest, passion and thoroughness. Subscribe to Border Crossings today for as little as $24/year.