Taking on Trump, at a theater near you

Scottish filmmaker casts a critical eye on a Trump project across the pond

TRD New York /
Aug.August 02, 2012 05:00 PM

Scottish director Anthony Baxter takes on Donald Trump — or rather the real estate celebrity’s $1.5 billion golf course project on Scotland’s North Sea coast — in an documentary film that opens tomorrow in Manhattan (see trailer above). “You’ve Been Trumped” explores the politics and personalities surrounding the development of what Trump hailed as “the best golf resort in the world” — replete with a 450-room hotel and vacation properties. Baxter, who portrays the world’s best-known developer in the harshest of lights, spoke recently with The Real Deal about the genesis of the project, the Scottish equivalent of eminent domain and why he was arrested in the course of making the film.

What will we will see in this film?

It’s the story of Donald Trump coming to Scotland to build a golf course on [land that] is a protected site; it’s a “Site of Special Scientific Interest,” the highest accolade that our country can bestow to a protected site. But the Scottish government decided that the 6,000 jobs promised outweighed the environmental concerns, and decided to give it a green light.

And what made you want to tell this story?

Nobody seemed to be reporting the impact. They focused instead on the jobs. It has produced a smattering of jobs, not the 6,000 that were promised, so, as someone living locally, I decided to pick up a camera and document what was going on.

Would you like to see a political outcome here? Or is this just a document?

What we have is a situation like what is happening all over the world — where money is riding roughshod over ordinary lives. The government in Scotland absolutely needs to learn lessons from what has happened.

Donald Trump has said he wouldn’t give so-called compulsory purchase orders, which would evict people from their homes, and then you provide a letter he sent [to the county government] that shows he did request them. … In the U.S. we have a mechanism like compulsory purchase, which is what Trump had wanted to use with the farms around the golf course; it’s called eminent domain. Not only would it rarely be invoked to make way for commercial development, but a homeowner would not get half the market rate, as these residents say they have been offered. How are your laws different?

[Trump] claims now that he won’t move them, but the local authority refused to rule out the use of compulsory purchase, or eminent domain, on their homes. It’s an unprecedented situation in Scotland. People are not forced out of their homes for commercial development in Scotland either, but it really looked as though it would happen.

What is the likelihood now that they will be evicted?

I feel that the residents do not believe the threat of eviction is over. For the moment, [Trump] is claiming he won’t build anything. Building is at a standstill, allegedly because of the wind farm [going up nearby].

On some level, are you just trying to expose Trump’s missteps?

No, no. The point of the film is really to document what has been happening to the land in this very, very sensitive environment in Scotland, and to hold Trump responsible for his actions in the court of public opinion. And to hold the government [responsible]and the police — who put me in jail [for investigating allegations that the water supply to residents in the area had been cut off].

What did they charge you with?

An offense called “breach of the peace.” It was thrown out by the prosecution, however, because the National Union of Journalists, among others, pointed out that this was this unprecedented incident where journalists are being arrested for trying to hold people in power to account.

What’s the status of the resort?

So, one golf course is built, and one temporary clubhouse. No hotel or anything else in the resort area has been built. The London School of Economics [with whom Baxter consulted for the film] makes it clear that if he was to sell the land he could make a very fat profit — hundreds of millions of dollars.

Well, then that seems pretty likely, don’t you think?

It does now, because he is saying he won’t build the hotel if the wind farm goes ahead, and he is saying it will spoil the view for his golfers.

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