Citizen Trump: A Director’s Mea Culpa
After a stormy ever-changing year, Robert Orlando provides new clarity to ‘Citizen Trump’ story
Ten months after the debut of Citizen Trump: A One Man Show, director Robert Orlando is back with a clarifying director’s cut now available online.
Like many deep thinkers, Orlando’s perspective on Donald Trump evolves with the evidence (he calls this updated version of the film a mea culpa).
The new film debuts as Simon & Schuster releases the book version of the same story on June 15. Below is a question and answer with the director/author:
Why come back so quickly with a second version of the same film?
Orlando: “For one, to be practical. When I made it the first time in the middle of a pandemic, we lost two-thirds of our financing, and Amazon was blocking it in the run-up to the election, so it never really had its day in the sun.”
Time passed rapidly; a new regime and racing events made us look at everything from fresh perspectives. As a result, so much of the present and future of a world without Trump is becoming more clear.”
“Trump as a big character stays the same. In the film, we show him saying he was pretty much the same guy — as a first grader. Both Trump lovers and haters might agree on that much. But, then, we look back a year later and ask what was the media telling us that turned out to be totally wrong?”
After a year of working on the story, how have your perspectives evolved?
Orlando: “Before the virus, Trump was destined to win a second term, so I thought being more critical of the ‘media man’ and the whole ‘game-show style’ of ‘politics as entertainment’ needed to be addressed. I still stand by that.
“It’s been a heartfelt time. When the first lockdowns hit, I was trapped in my studio as someone living in a New Jersey ghost town. Only New York was hit harder than New Jersey, and the rest of the country didn’t see what we saw.”
“At times, I found the divisive rhetoric or exaggerations so angering because we all wanted Trump to turn it off. We did not want to hear the same rhetoric style we heard at his rallies or during the campaign at these sacred moments.
Your original version seemed more critical of Trump’s pandemic behavior and policies?
Orlando: “In light of the success of Operation Warp Speed and the revenge of the anti-Trump left that’s hit Americans so hard? Trump was a Godsend — character flaws and all, Trump might have been America’s last stand.
“Even a more autocratic style looks favorable compared to the spending spree, the mob, a cancel culture that wants to kill us, our culture, our history.
“A divisive word or egotistical boast from Trump — or even porn star stories, will injure us. But one more Biden Executive order could destroy us. Trump lost points on style. What I think Biden is doing as part of the left might be criminal. He’s not carrying out the will of the people.”
What else can people learn from this film?
Orlando: “Boundaries, the framing of a story — both are a perfect metaphor for Trump, the Showman. He promised to close the borders and secure our trade laws, to keep America a country by keeping the boundaries working. Stories similarly have clear starts, endings, and boundaries.
“He took that same attitude, and he tightened our walls, kept the Middle East at peace, wound up wars rather than ramping them up. He might have schmoozed with dictators(what president hasn’t), but no new wars for the first time in decades.
“He presided over a booming economy, he brought companies back to the United States, he restored the pride in the military, and he called out China which was long overdue. And finally, he pushed back on the wacky Woke agenda where he could.”
So you see 2020 differently now than you did in the middle of the storm?
Orlando: “What was pure about the story — but clouded by the ongoing politics in general and in the election specific — is that people could not think clearly.
“The media trains its viewers to be anxious, living day-to-day hanging on the news outlets who have created bad guys and good guys, right and wrong, left and right. Unless you’re a propagandist like Michael Moore, that doesn’t work. So independent filmmakers have to capture the universals, seek the truth.”
Why “Citizen Kane’ as the frame?
Orlando: “Trump loved the Citizen Kane film, and although he did not fully understand it, his life had many parallels, and it made for a worthy investigation. The hook for me was finding out — in light of the election — how parallel they were… Kane ends in tragedy. Would Trump?”
The biggest risk was coming out with a film about Trump in August 2020, before we knew where the story was going?
Orlando: “That’s what films do, but time was ticking on; the world continued to change, so the answer to the question answered in real-time, and the news also proved the film more right every day, especially with the news post-election.
It turns out most of Trump’s issues were about the moral character (at least before the presidency) and rhetoric! The alternative most privately feared has come through, as we hear on the conservative programs every day (people like Mark Levin, Dan Bongino, Eric Metaxas). His loss was the unleashing of worldwide forces.
We have a new specter on our hands to undo the American Manifesto. Yes, did he speak in ways or even life at times, with disturbing repercussions? The same skills in campaigning became his flaws in political, diplomatic relations.
Seeing how it has played out, I wonder, even if Trump or another candidate had behaved differently. Would the media have stopped their assault? I think we all know the answer.
As did Hearst, as portrayed in Kane, titan, or the media or not, Trump and his followers represented an America First ‘line in the sand,’ ready to fight, and that is a huge threat.”
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