Anti-Trump Film Debuted to Much Fanfare at Cannes, But Look What Happened When Festival Closed


Whatever happens this week in a Manhattan courtroom, at least Donald Trump can say that he got good news from one jury.

Sure, it may have been in France, and its decisions aren’t legally binding — but if it can’t be called a loss for Alvin Bragg, it can at least be called a jolt to whatever’s left of #TheResistance.

As you may have heard, a Trump biopic called “The Apprentice” debuted to an eight-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival last week. One assumes this isn’t because it was particularly great; according to Variety, the movie was more of a hatchet job and didn’t focus on the period of his life that actually included the hit NBC reality show that gave the film its title, but rather on his early career.

The description provided to media called it “a story about the origins of a system … featuring larger-than-life characters and set in a world of power and ambition,” Variety reported. “The film delves into a profound exploration of the ascent of an American dynasty. It meticulously charts the genesis of a ‘zero-sum’ culture, one that accentuates the dichotomy between winners and losers, the dynamics between the mighty and the vulnerable, and the intricate psychology of persona.”

What does that include? Quoth Variety: “The movie, which was independently produced, stars Sebastian Stan as Trump and Jeremy Strong as Cohn. It presents a damning portrait of the former president as an ethically compromised, philanderer who stiffs contractors and cuts deals with the mob to get his buildings completed. It includes other controversial details, including a scene where Trump rapes his first wife, Ivana, and depicts him abusing amphetamines to lose weight, as well as undergoing liposuction and plastic surgery.”

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Never mind the fact that the story about raping his first wife was debunked by … his first wife. Or the fact that the film’s producers and director seem to be at odds about what the purpose is. (The producers issued a statement that the movie gives “a fair and balanced portrait of the former president.” Director Ali Abbasi apparently didn’t get the memo, or they didn’t get his: “There is no nice metaphorical way to deal with the rising wave of fascism,” the director said after the premiere. “It’s time to make movies relevant. It’s time to make movies political again.” Right.)

Instead, let’s talk about the fact that, despite the fact that it was the biggest news out of the annual French film festival this year — getting both an eight-minute standing ovation and a cease-and-desist letter from Trump’s attorneys at the same time — it curiously didn’t take home any awards.

The Hill noted that “The Apprentice” didn’t get love from the committee, “with the top prize going to ‘Anora,’ a romantic drama set in New York; filmmaker Sean Baker became the first American to win the top award, the Palme d’Or, since 2011.”

Nor did it take home any of the other numerous trophies, at that. That’s too bad — well, for those involved with this thing, at least — considering that Variety reported, “there was intense interest from potential buyers for the film, which is seeking U.S. distribution ahead of the election in November.”


Not that a Cannes award necessarily means you’ll get a domestic distribution deal — or that you won’t, for that matter. It would have helped a movie that seems destined to become a cause célèbre one way or the other, however.

Consider, for instance, that both Trump’s legal team and one of the film’s top financiers both don’t want it to come out.

“This ‘film’ is pure malicious defamation, should not see the light of day and doesn’t even deserve a place in the straight-to-DVD section of a bargain bin at a soon-to-be-closed discount movie store. It belongs in a dumpster fire,” said Steven Cheung, the Trump campaign’s communications director.

Two people who had read the cease-and-desist letter from Trump’s people warned the independent filmmakers against pursuing a U.S. distribution deal, Variety reported.

Then, there’s the matter of Dan Snyder, former owner of the Washington Redskins/Football Team/Commanders/Whatever.

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It turns out that Snyder, through his company Kinematics, has financed “The Apprentice” — and he’s not happy with the final results, especially considering he donated over $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee and another $100,000 to his re-election campaign four years ago.

According to Variety, Snyder “put money into the film via Kinematics because he was under the impression that it was a flattering portrayal of the 45th president. Snyder finally saw a cut of the film in February and was said to be furious. Kinematics’ lawyers were enlisted to fight the release of ‘The Apprentice,’ and the cease-and-desist letters began flying.”

While Kinematics’ president has insisted that they “run our company without the involvement of any other third parties,” seeing one of the largest financiers of the pic firing off a cease-and-desist letter at the same time that the candidate that it reportedly defames does the same thing never has a meliorative effect on a film’s ability to garner a deal.

In other words, don’t count on this thing being released anytime before the election. In fact, if it makes it into theaters before 2029, when and if all talk of Donald Trump likely becomes moot one way or another — he’s either term-limited out if he wins the election or probably irrelevant in the GOP choosing process if he doesn’t — Mr. Abbasi will be a very lucky man.

Even if it does make it into your local cinema before ballots begin being cast, it probably won’t have any effect; not only does an indie hatchet-job about Trump sound like it’ll flop on a scale that’ll make Oliver Stone’s George W. Bush film “W.” look like a critical and commercial success, it also sounds so much like over-the-top dreck that one wouldn’t be surprised to see it dethrone “Mommie Dearest” as the reigning title holder for World’s Most Unintentionally Funny Biopic.

Considering “Mommie Dearest” was released in 1981, that’s no small feat — assuming “The Apprentice” is up for it. It certainly seems to be, from all descriptions — and the fact that the Cannes crowd, not known as a hive of covert MAGA-loving expats, weren’t willing to throw it a bone seems to indicate they knew junk when they saw it. That means whatever happens in a Manhattan courtroom this week, at least one jury gave Trump a very good sign.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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