Maxim Pozdorovkin’s “documentary” (I use that term in the loosest sense of the word) Our New President has ambitious goals, aiming to outline out how creating “fake realities” through propaganda ends up creating fake citizens, people who can buy into absurdity. Unfortunately, Pozdorovkin is either unwilling or uninterested in doing the hard work of making a compelling argument, instead just stringing together a bunch of clips from Russia Today (RT) and NTV, showing how the state’s power over journalism has created an endless string of mindless propaganda. Rather than provide any context, whether it be historical, academic, sociological, or anything outside these clips, Pozdorovkin is content to just show that Russian propaganda is anti-Hillary Clinton, pro-Donald Trump, and very weird.
After opening with an amateurishly presented clip of Hillary Clinton visiting a mummy in a museum, the movie leads with the Philip K. Dick quote, “Fake realities will create fake humans. Or, fake humans will generate fake realities and then sell them to other humans, turning them, eventually, into forgeries of themselves.” But rather than drill down into what this means, Pozdorovkin then just shows a bunch of clips in chronological order, starting with the anti-Clinton material when it was presumed she would win the 2016 election, then the support for Donald Trump, the interpretation of Donald Trump’s presidency, and then it abruptly ends because it’s not like it had much of a structure in the first place.
Once you get 15 minutes into Our New President, you quickly realize that Pozdorovkin has no intention of doing the hard work required of a serious documentary filmmaker. He’s happy to include ominous electric guitar chords over everything, but good documentary filmmaking requires the director to go to unexpected places, put together compelling research, and present cohesive ideas. But rather than interview a single person or discover a surprising piece of footage, Our New President is just a parade of absurd propaganda. Look, it’s a child with a “Trump” tattoo! Look, it’s a rapper rapping about Trump! Look, NTV used to question Putin, but when it was taken over by the state, it became another mouthpiece! It’s lazy, obvious filmmaking that could get its point across in less than five minutes.
The best thing I can say about Our New President is that it’s a textbook case of what not to do as a documentary filmmaker. There’s a strong central idea buried beneath all the crap (it’s why I decided to take a chance on the movie) about how propaganda warps citizenry, and it’s something we should definitely explore given how, especially in America, we can choose our own media. But to really give this idea the attention it deserves, it needs to be explored in a thoughtful, thorough manner so that we can actually gleam insight from a situation. Merely presenting propaganda and then trying to call that presentation a critique is literally the least one can do.
For all of our Sundance 2018 coverage, click here.