Alison Klayman’s intriguing documentary tracks the slippery strategist following his departure from the Trump White House
Audiences should be wary of documentaries featuring charmingly roguish, twinkly-eyed reactionary villains who play liberal film-makers for suckers. This is what happened during Errol Morris’s feeble film about Donald Rumsfeld. And Morris’s own study of media executive and White House strategist Steve Bannon, American Dharma, was considered a failure because slippery-yet-cordial Bannon wouldn’t take the bait.
Bannon, himself a dabbler in film-making who managed the US video release of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, knows the score. But Alison Klayman’s film does better than most, as she follows Bannon in the luxury wilderness period that followed his sacking by Donald Trump – pursuing a grisly consciousness-raising world tour of far-right media organisations, breaking bread with blandly self-pitying lite-fascists all over Europe and travelling on a handsome private jet. Who’s paying for that, you may ask? Bannon isn’t saying. And what is he on the brink of? Power? Defeat? It’s an ambiguity that is important to the American far right, so they can be excitingly on the verge of victory while nursing their trembly-lipped underdog/victim status.