A Dangerous Game Review [Hot Docs 2014]

Adam A. Donaldson

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On May 5, 2014
Last modified:May 5, 2014


In A Dangerous Game, Anthony Baxter returns to plague both golf and Donald Trump, but he takes the show global this time, in a documentary that's both fun and powerful.

A Dangerous Game Review [Hot Docs 2014]

You’ve Been Trumped was a small film with big ambitions, a compelling David vs. Goliath story that saw a bunch of small town Scots take on real estate and media titan Donald Trump in an effort to stop the construction of a destination golf resort on ecologically sensitive land. Given the odds, one almost couldn’t blame Trump for writing off filmmaker Anthony Baxter, or his “failed documentary,” but as these things go, the story of You’ve Been Trumped resonated around the world. Many who saw the film, saw a similar story going on in their own communities, and while their local bad guys lacked the flamboyance of the New York mogul/villain of Baxter’s film, they did have one thing in common: money and the influence money buys.

Those two things also come into play in A Dangerous Game, Baxter’s sequel/continuation to You’ve Been Trumped. Like all sequels, Baxter has a bit more money to play with in this new film, and it’s reflected in some snazzy animation and beautiful cinematography. The influence comes from the very people that Baxter set out to shine a light on in the first film, the Trump empire, and despite all the talk about failure, and being sued, Baxter is given the red carpet treatment by Trump and co., including a tour of the New Jersey resort with Donald Jr. and a sit down with Mr. Big himself.

That being said, the Trumps are secondary in Baxter’s new film, and the emphasis moves to the south east of Europe to Dubrovnik in Croatia. The historic city on the Adriatic Sea is home to just over 42,000, its walled city is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its perch along the Mediterranean make it a top tourist destination. In other words, it’s the perfect place to put a lavish gated community and exclusive golf resort. Do they play golf in Croatia? Who cares, says Israeli entrepreneur Aaron Frenkel, because according to him, “if you build it, the rich elites will come.”

The point of the film is, as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. puts it, that there are a lot of Donald Trumps out there. Baxter finds no shortage of people looking to tell their story about fighting massive developments and the local billionaire bad guy who’s forcing said developments on an unwilling public. While Trumped has the benefit of intimacy, Baxter widens his gaze with Game, which has the benefit of making the film bigger while not losing any of its grassroots appeal. What was something happening to small town Scotland becomes something that can happen anywhere, and is happening everywhere, creating a strong global solidarity against lavish, exclusive golf resorts.

But lest you think power and success have gone to Baxter’s head, or that he has a vendetta against the game of golf, we occasionally interact with his uncle Denis, who offers a rather startling insight into the game. He tells us that once upon a time, it was a game everyone played, from the really poor to the super rich. Denis collects abandoned and lost golf balls at the public course, a callback to his wartime youth when the only way you could play was with found balls. You wouldn’t be caught dead playing with found balls on a Trump course, but that’s just the point: when did golf become a rich person’s thing, and why must it be kept in their exclusive hands?

So, now that you know that this is not a screed about the hated game of golf, you can fixate on some of the points Baxter’s trying to convey. Where are all the jobs promised by these developments? What about the environmental impact of the chemicals used to make the greens and the water used to irrigate them? Why are foreign billionaires able to subvert the democratic will of the locals and get their way with nary a fuss from officials? Baxter’s new found clout helps him get answers, or at least helps him get the run-around from the people he’s pursuing in person, and while there’s a little bit of tooting his own horn, he doesn’t go all Michael Moore and make himself the story.

The clout also doesn’t stop Baxter from getting roughed up when golf course security doesn’t like what he’s doing, but thankfully, he manages to avoid arrest in this one. Still, it makes you wonder what the big secret is, and why are resorts and resort developers like Trump and Frenkel afraid of frank and obvious questions about their plans? Baxter lays it out pretty directly in A Dangerous Game, and throws their silence, ignorance, platitudes, and outright lies back at the billionaires and the politicians to expose them. In the process, the film proves that one documentary can actually change the world and prevent it from becoming one, giant exclusive golf resort. In other words, David trumps Goliath in the end.

A Dangerous Game Review

In A Dangerous Game, Anthony Baxter returns to plague both golf and Donald Trump, but he takes the show global this time, in a documentary that's both fun and powerful.

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