You've Been Trumped, a film that has become a voice for Scottish locals opposed to Donald Trump's development of a golf course and resort north of Aberdeen, Scotland, an area described as 'special scientific interest' for its environmentally-sensitive dunes, won the Victor Rabinowitz and Joanne Grant Award for Social Justice at the Hamptons International Film Festival this past weekend.
Director Anthony Baxter documents the changes to the sensitive dunes area since construction began in one of Britain's last stretches of wilderness as viewers can see bulldozers leveling natural sand dunes along the coastline. The stories are told by a variety of local residents and others who share their stories and concerns over the construction.
The Scottish government approved plans for Trump to build the resort on over 1400 acres of Scottish coastline in November of 2008. The construction plans were unveiled in March 2010 for two courses, a driving range, a short-game practice area, a five-star hotel, a residential community of 950 condos, 500 single-family homes and 36 villas. The first course, Trump International Golf Links Scotland, is supposed to be completed in the summer of 2012. "It will be the world's greatest golf course," Trump says.
Baxter's film takes the viewer through the history of the controversial project, quoting only individuals who are opposed to it. "Initially, the development was rejected by the local authorities who said the development would damage this area of wild natural beauty," says Baxter. "But after Trump promised the government that thousands of jobs would be created, the Scottish Government overturned its own environment laws to give Trump the green light."
George A. Sorial, Managing Director, International Development and Assistant General Counsel for The Trump Organization, released the following statement:
Anthony Baxter's film is a complete fraud and a gross misrepresentation of the facts. Our project in Aberdeenshire, Scotland is widely supported by the local people, the business community and the political leadership. This film only presents the myopic views of a very small fringe element that are not respected and are widely regarded as a national embarrassment for Scotland. During these challenging economic times, our project has employed hundreds, provided tens of millions in investment for the region and will serve as an anchor for future economic growth and tourism. Our work on the championship golf course has been applauded by both the Ecological Clerk of Works and the Menie Environmental Management Advisory Group, whose membership represents Scotland's leading environmental protection groups. Mr. Baxter is not a credible source of information and its widely known that he breached US copyright laws to produce this film, which is nothing more than a feeble attempt to make money by exploiting the Trump name.
The film features local residents who share stories about their families growing up in the village for decades. They talk about their anguish when several sand dunes around them are being flattened by bulldozers, water and power lines were cut off and some residents had thousands of tons of earth piled up near their homes. One local, Michael Forbes, refused to sell his property and he and Trump have been feuding every since. Trump has said of Forbes: "His property is terribly maintained... he lives like a pig."
'You think of an old course like St. Andrews," continues Baxter. "It was made by a group of workers with shovels leveling off some ground. With a Trump-style course, it's bringing in a fleet of trucks and bulldozers and moving thousands of tons of sand around, built in a way that you would build a tower block in New York City. And that's the problem! It's possible to do this in a sustainable way. He's bulldozing his way through century old dunes!"
"For example," Baxter continues. "There are some houses he wants to get rid of that he doesn't want to see from the golf course so he starts building huge banks of earth around the resident's homes and the residents are furious! They've seen the land moved and shifted through many years."
One portion of the film shows Donald Trump receiving an honorary degree from Robert Gordon University and Dr. David Kennedy, a former head of the University, giving back his Honorary Degree in protest.
"All over the world people are trying to balance economic development against environmental impact," adds Baxter, "and there is a real feeling around the world at the moment about money and power and its influence on getting things done that are contrary to people's hopes and beliefs. The Wall Street protest is a good example of this whole issue being raised -- money and power and its impact -- and this is a real issue we are seeing unfold in Scotland."
"You have a celebrity type tycoon, Donald Trump, well-known in the United States. When he first came over, they rolled out the red carpet, the bag pipes were playing as he got off his 757 jet. The country got swept up by this idea that this great tycoon came in and is going to save our economy. People are upset by the fact that this is having such an environment impact. Many people are just now learning about this impact and the film gets to the truth of that."
Also documented in the film, Baxter and his colleague were arrested and thrown into a local jail. Baxter recalled the experience: "The residents have been complaining to us that the police are in the pockets of the Trump organization, saying 'we don't feel like we're being heard...' There is an 87-year-old woman, Molly Forbes, and we discovered her water supply was cut off for a week so we went to interview one of the construction workers who severed the line from the well," Baxter explained. "Then we spoke to another resident and it was there that the police came down and arrested me and my colleague. I was thrown over the bonnet of the car, hand cuffed and thrown into jail, DNA tested, photographed, the works. We found ourselves in this extraordinary situation which the National Union of Journalists said was unprecedented which raised serious implications for freedom of the press in the United Kingdom. It was an unprecedented case. We were arrested for doing an interview and charged with a criminal offense."