How did this happen? Everyone I know asked themselves this question the night Donald Trump inexplicably won the 2016 American Presidential election. Since then, the news has gotten crazier and extremely addictive. This has led every friend, family member, journalist, late night talk show host, and blogger to have their own answer for “how did this happen?” I’ll admit, I got sucked in and read and watched all I could find on the subject. But there’s just too much and unfortunately Fred Peabody’s new documentary got here about six months after I became officially burnt out on the subject.
The general thesis of The Corporate Coup D’État is that of Canadian philosopher John Ralston Saul and American journalist Chris Hedges: that Trump’s symptom is a symptom and the logical result of a slow-motion coup by American corporations of the nation’s democratic process. Hearing them, as well as the half dozen or so other journalists interviewed in the film, is interesting enough but isn’t so different from all the other stuff I’ve read. Because the film mostly opens with these intellectuals talking, punctuated only a bunch of archival footage of Trump that we’ve all seen dozens of times before (just this time without any quips from John Oliver or Seth Meyers which is pretty much where I get my news these days), the documentary gets off to a pretty slow start.
It picks up quickly though and once it gets going, Peabody’s film can break through even the worst Trump fatigue. The Corporate Coup D’État takes us where CNN and MSNBC rarely will. It takes us to communities like Camden, New Jersey, places that were hardest hit by free trade and the failed economic policies of the last five administrations. Yes, many of these people voted for Trump, and Hedges and fellow journalist Phillip Martin are willing to talk to them about why with an empathy that I found refreshing.
Peabody tries to end on a hopeful note. I appreciated the effort but it’s hard to watch The Corporate Coup D’État and feel particularly hopeful. It might just make you angry though, reminding you of just how high the stakes are. Peabody uses the perfect balance of intellectual talking heads and working class testimonials to make his case.
Monday, Apr 29, 9:30 PM, Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
Tuesday, Apr 30, 10:00 AM, Isabel Bader Theatre
Friday, May 3, 12:00 PM, Hart House Theatre