Michael Moore Talks Surprise 'TrumpLand' Film: "Look for the Good in Hillary Clinton"
"The shitshow isn't over," said the filmmaker. "It appeals to the darker instinct of a country that has made some mistakes, whether it’s voting for Reagan or Nixon or Bush or the professional wrestler in Minnesota."
Michael Moore has unveiled Michael Moore in TrumpLand, a surprise film he screened for the first time at New York City’s IFC Center on Tuesday night for free. The 73-minute film will begin its theatrical run on Wednesday at the IFC Center (for one week only) and Los Angeles' Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino.
"We're flying by the seat of our pants here," the Oscar-winning filmmaker of Bowling for Columbine, who has been an outspoken opponent of Donald Trump throughout the presidential election, told the premiere’s audience. "Our goal is to have as many Americans see this over the next five or 10 days."
The live performance film — which sees Moore speaking about the two candidates onstage, and supposing what would happen if each were to become the next U.S. president — was shot less than two weeks ago, over two consecutive nights at a venue in Wilmington, Ohio, in a county where Trump received four times as many votes as Clinton did in the primary elections. “To us, this was TrumpLand,” Moore explained, adding that he initially eyed the Ohio town of Licking, but was denied. “I wanted to do this not in a safe place, but in a place where we’d need a lot of security, which we had.”
The film was funded by IMG Films, and its postproduction was completed at Technicolor — and locked on Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. — and IFC donated their theater for the Tuesday night premiere, co-hosted by MoveOn.org. Following the announcement’s buzz, a handful of theaters have called to screen over the next two weeks before the election. “We’ll hopefully have an announcement on that over the next 24 to 36 hours. It’s all coming together in a very rapid-fire way,” Moore explained, adding that the film will soon be available on VOD as well. “Lots of people have been contacting us to see how they can help us.”
In the film, Moore notes that “white men over 35 are obsolete” in the 21st century (“Guys know it and that's why they're at the Trump rallies,” he says) and that women are not inherently problematic: “No women invented a hydrogen or atomic bomb, and no girls have gone into schools to shoot them up. … We're actually quite safe from 51 percent of the population,” he explains. “Whatever you're afraid of does not wear a dress — or a pantsuit.”
The movie also includes an imagined news segment that covers what would happen if Trump is inaugurated: aerial attacks on Mexican border towns, an official TV news channel operated by Breitbart and Roger Ailes, and the deportation of Rosie O'Donnell to the American Samoa. Afterward, the filmmaker discusses Clinton with the audience, playing a segment of her impassioned Wellesley commencement speech and supposing that, as Pope Francis did to the Catholic Church, Clinton can stimulate progress that benefits “the greater good” of the country. “The enemy of my enemy is who I’m voting for on Nov. 8,” Moore says in the film.
At the recorded performance, Moore "made Trump people feel more comfortable" by seating "Mexican and Mexican-looking Americans" in a segregated area, which was entirely blocked off by a faux brick wall, and "Muslim-looking" attendees were in another area and monitored by a drone.
Moore, who himself has never before voted for Clinton, explained that he made TrumpLand because Democrats should not strategize for Clinton’s victory by solely scaring people off Trump, as support for Clinton is not necessarily locked-in. "If you support Hillary Clinton and you've been doing this end-zone dance and celebrating her early victory, you've been helping to defeat her by doing that," he said while introducing the film. "There's a long tradition of Americans electing people you don't think they're going to elect. ... What the country doesn't need is to be told that Trump is a crazy, dangerous psychopath [and] sociopath, all of that. He has written and produced that movie and it appears daily."
“It’s too risky for me. I’m gonna do something here and give people positive reasons to vote for her,” Moore said after the screening, adding that the Brexit aftermath can serve as America's cautionary tale. “Look for the good in Hillary. I’m not saying forget the bad, but there’s a lot of good there.”
Of the audience onscreen, he said, “I don’t think I turned a lot of them to Hillary. One of my personal goals — maybe I shouldn’t say this out loud — was to depress the Trump vote. They may still vote for Trump, but they may not bring 10 people with them. The Hillary vote is depressed right now. … Our biggest opponent on election day is getting people out [to the polls] who have given up.”
Still, Moore asserted that this film is “a movie that the Hillary campaign would never endorse” and targets the undecided voters, especially of the “four Brexit states,” which are Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, “people who are leaning toward Trump who can reluctantly vote [for Hillary]," he said. "If you don’t think the white working class, especially men, aren’t in this and aren’t as frightened, their fear is driving them seriously and they’re gonna vote. ... Nov. 8 [is] winter in Michigan; it’s a low [voter] turnout day. There could be two feet of snow in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. ... You know who comes [to the polls]? The rabid supporters come out."
“I’m filled with optimism, but I’m gonna be busy every single minute between now and when the polls close. I’m taking this very seriously,” he stressed, adding that headlines like the Billy Bush tapes haven't suppressed Trump's support quite enough. "If I leave here tonight with people thinking that this was just a nice funny show and that we’re not in any kind of trouble here because Trump has imploded ... the shitshow isn’t over. Don’t take any joy in this, because it appeals to the darker instinct of a country that has made some mistakes, whether it’s voting for Reagan or Nixon or Bush or the professional wrestler in Minnesota.”
Moore ended the post-screening Q&A with a lighter take: “Remember, Kaitlyn [Bristowe] — we all thought she was gonna go with Nick [Viall], and she picked Shawn [Booth] on the Bachelorette. Jennifer Hudson lost on American Idol — our fellow Americans voted for Fantasia [Barrino]! I’m telling you, shit happens in America. They thought Jennifer Hudson had it in the bag. Don’t let Fantasia win on Nov. 8!”
Announced Monday night via Twitter, the project is an iteration of Moore's one-man play, which he planned to perform at a central Ohio theater and record for nationwide release just weeks before the election. The film's official synopsis reads: "See the film Ohio Republicans tried to shut down. Oscar-winner Michael Moore dives right into hostile territory with his daring and hilarious one-man show, deep in the heart of TrumpLand in the weeks before the 2016 election."
Moore is no stranger to politically themed projects — his career-topping doc Fahrenheit 9/11 took on George W. Bush at a time when he was locked in a heated presidential election with John Kerry. Though Bush won the presidency, the Lionsgate title grossed $222 million worldwide.
Michael Moore in Trumpland follows the theatrical release of Where to Invade Next, which was his first movie in six years. Unveiled as a surprise title at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival and released in just over 300 theaters in February, the documentary was distributed by a new, unnamed company headed by ex-Radius executives Tom Quinn and Jason Janego and Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League. It grossed $3.8 million worldwide.
The new film's world premiere drew opponents of Trump's presidential campaign for photos and publicity opportunities, including a fortune-telling machine.