Sep 022014

Anthony Baxter talks to Suzanne Kelly about golf, human rights, Robert F Kennedy Junior, politicians, and Glenfiddich. By Suzanne Kelly.

dangerous game hare2

‘A Dangerous Game’ will be on general release as of Friday 5th September in Scotland.

Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney set out some years ago to make a documentary. Their subject was Donald Trump building a golf course on the Menie Estate, and what life was like for the residents. The filmmakers didn’t expect to be arrested for their investigative journalism. Then again, they didn’t expect to win virtually every documentary prize worldwide for the resulting film, either.

But that’s what their first film, ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ did.

‘A Dangerous Game’ is the sequel, and unusually for a documentary, it will be on general release as of Friday 5th September in Scotland, with English cinemas following on the 12th September.

The film premiered in Canada, Sheffield and at the Edinburgh International Film Festival to great acclaim. Anthony Baxter will hold a Question and Answer session and panel discussion after the 5th September 18:30 showing at Cineworld in Aberdeen’s Union Square. On the cusp of its general release.

A brief history of Trump

It was June of 2011 when as a new contributor to Aberdeen Voice I went to Aberdeen’s Belmont Cinema to see the brand new documentary ‘You’ve Been Trumped’, and to interview its makers, Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney.

By way of background, Trump was initially turned down by the Aberdeenshire Council for his grandiose scheme, until Alex Salmond, who had wined and dined with The Donald on both sides of the Atlantic, sashayed in and took the normal planning process away from the shire.

Salmond, who to this day has not visited the Menie residents despite their being his constituents, had the Scottish government hold an inquiry which led to the green light for Trump, concluding that there would be thousands of jobs and that environmental protection was less important than these jobs, jobs which never materialised. Donald Trump got his way.

Perhaps that should that be ‘The Don’ and not the Donald: the BBC has linked him to organised crime in the USA.

The bulldozers moved in, residents refused to move out, even when Trump-employed tricksters tried to buy their homes under false pretences.

Residents were then under siege. Property was destroyed: David Milne’s fence, Michael Forbes’ boat and other possessions. Their water supply pipe was ‘accidentally’ broken by Trump diggers, police threatened residents with arrest if they went through newly erected gates, and private security illegally demanded frequent identity checks.

Susan Munro’s cottage was veritably surrounded by high mounds of earth which blocked the light and blew dirt and dust into her home, also ruining automobile engines. The once wild area became a veritable personal dictatorship with the blessing of the government.

A Dangerous Precedent

So is The Trumpster alone in seeking greenbelt land to manicure into submission? Not at all, as Anthony and ‘A Dangerous Game’ explain.

While much of the new film is concerned with the Menie Estate, it is largely set in Dubrovnik, a beautiful, UNESCO heritage site with a long, important history.

Naturally it is now in the crosshairs of international property developers who want to create a golf resort. These developers will, it seems, get to turn the wilderness area above the city into a resort for the rich golfer, with considerable local government collaboration and contempt for democracy and rule of law easing their path.

This undemocratic modus operandi is happening in many places. What’s wrong with turning legally protected wild areas into golf courses? Nothing, aside from losing public green spaces, wildlife habitat and biodiversity, greenskeeping chemicals which do leech into the water table, and corruption in governments leading to exploitation of resources and contempt for the electorate.

Part of the film shows how towns like Montrose manage to encourage golfing without the environmental destruction, architectural aberration or megalomania. Not so at Menie, not so at Dubrovnik.

A Dangerous Film

The film talks to environmental campaigners, and to Trump and his son. Father and son taped the interviews independently of Anthony, so as to prevent them from being badly edited or being made to look foolish. Heaven forfend.

The new film is again beautifully filmed and edited. However, there are rich and powerful people in several countries who won’t be coming out of this looking very good at all. If ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ stirred the pot, ‘A Dangerous Game’ is potentially explosive.

Playing Catch Up

Anthony has been working nearly non-stop for months, if not years now. We finally get to speak at some length.

“I’m very excited to get the film out, to get the story to the audience.”

He explains:

“I want to get across the important message about democracy and how it breaks down when those who are supposed to represent us don’t do so. 

“It’s unusual to have a documentary released in cinemas. There will be a Q&A session and panel discussions. ‘A Dangerous Game’ will be in cinema multiplexes as well as art house theatres.”

We inevitably discuss the Scottish Referendum. Anthony says:

“This film is not about independence, but it is about our democracy. We have a responsibility to be vigilant, whichever side wins on September 18th.”

The film steers clear of the concurrent Scottish independence referendum debate, but it does not steer clear of criticising those who have earned criticism. It is undeniable that Alex Salmond’s intervention and previous enthusiasm for Trump’s megalomaniacal plans trumped, if you will, due process, existing environmental protection legislation, and the rights of Menie Estate residents.

It somehow feels as if the Menie Estate’s environment and people are being forgotten by the government behind the walls of dirt and sand that Trump had built up around the properties which he called ‘eyesores’ and ‘wanted pulled down’. Alex Salmond is meant to represent the Menie residents, it’s his constituency.

He’s turned down many invitations to come and watch ‘You’ve Been Trumped.’ He has been asked to visit the estate prior to the sequel’s premiere on the 5th September, and to come to the premiere too. Answer comes there none. (I’m still waiting Alex; do come to the Aberdeen screening on the 5th and/or the after party: there are people who would love to speak with you).

Anthony elaborates:

“The residents live in Salmond’s constituency, and even after the public outcry and outpouring of sympathy, the Trump organisation continues to make life difficult for them.”

Anthony mentions resident Mickey Foote, who wonders about the ‘duty of care’ or lack thereof, shown by his elected representatives.

 “Alex Salmond is of course busy, but in eight years of driving past the area, he has never once visited the residents in their homes.” 

Anthony quotes Robert F Kennedy Jr. in the film and to me:

“Wherever you see environmental injury you also see the subversion of democracy. The two things go hand in hand. They always do.”

 If it can happen in Scotland in the 21st century, it can certainly happen to Dubrovnik too.

Anthony continues:

“Something in our democracy is broken and we have to fix it.”

Resident David Milne tried to fix it by starting a petition, among many other actions, to ask for a full inquiry into how the police, Scottish National Heritage, the local government’s planning people and other organisations behaved during and after the controversial planning application favoured Trump’s plans.

No fewer than 19,000 people signed this request, and the Scottish Government petitions committee, seven people, had to take the matter up. Their methodology? To ask all of the organisations in the firing line for grave failures whether they should be investigated or not.

Unsurprisingly, these organisations, all caught in undemocratic actions, declined to be investigated. Clearly confused, the petitions committee also seemed to think that the hearing to grant the planning permission was enough of an investigation to hold, even though actions such as the police failings clearly, obviously occurred after planning was granted.

Many people including me contacted the committee. They refused to explain anything on the matter and it is now permanently closed. When we discuss this, Anthony’s voice changes slightly; he sounds rightly angry.

“David Milne is an ordinary person, he’s not a lawyer and he’s been forced by circumstances to spend great amounts of time just trying to protect his rights and to have this investigation. It’s shocking how he was treated by the committee.”

We discuss the unfairness of this decision and many other issues. He tells me:

“We have every right to expect there will be logic in our democracy.”

I can’t argue, but it’s clear we don’t have much logic going around these days. The bunds blocking light from the Munro house were never part of the planning permission; they are still standing at full height despite what the law says. Gates are locked, stopping people exercising their right to roam.

The Government may not have wanted this issue looked at, despite the request of 19,000 people. However, people power came to the fore in spades when Michael Forbes was voted Top Scot of the Year by the public in Glenfiddich’s annual awards.

The awards night is beautifully captured in ‘A Dangerous Game’, and like the events in Dubrovnik that Anthony and Richard have documented, it serves to show that people can still make a difference when they act together. Baxter and Phinney have demonstrated that even one or two people can make a world of difference as well.

Continuing on the theme of awards, we talk about the nature of Trump the man, and Anthony brings up the award Trump ‘won’ – captured in the film. Trump proudly threw a press conference to announce he received a ‘six diamond award’ and that these ‘aren’t just given out’.

Except they are, if you are connected to the awarding organisation.

“It was a bogus award ceremony held on the Trump course – not a single person there did anything to find out why a 90-year-old woman still has no proper water supply.” 

I am completely taken aback: I had no idea that the water pipe broken by the Trump people’s operations so many years ago, leaving them with no running water, has not in all this time been repaired correctly. I am writing again to the Trump organisation; and will advise what the reply is. The web page trumpeting this six diamond award includes two Press & Journal congratulatory articles.

But where was the local press when Molly Forbes was carrying water from a stream in buckets, and Michael and Sheila Forbes were without water as well? In bed with the Trump administration literally, as Evening Express beauty queen ‘face of Aberdeen’ Sarah Malone married Aberdeen Journals Ltd’s Damian Bates; she is a Trump VP at Menie, despite having virtually no relevant previous experience.

Coincidentally, Baxter’s award-winning film concerning a local problem has received virtually no coverage, the residents and politicians standing up to Trump were mocked in the local printed press. We discuss the importance of having a free press that is not beholden to the rich and powerful and which lets people know what is really going on.

Since the Edinburgh premiere, Trump’s been busy. He’s now active in Ireland, and has turned Turnberry into Trump Turnberry. I ask if Anthony will be using any of these developments.

“We’re just tweaking a few details, there is the purchase of the Irish resort. We’ll add some pictures.”

Anthony’s taken time out to speak to me on the morning of his birthday; I don’t want to eat into his day, and we leave it there, for now. The film will be in Aberdeen at Cineworld Union Square and at the links. We will catch up further then.

‘A Dangerous Game’ – Release date 5th September 2014

Starring ….

Donald Trump, Michael Forbes, Alec Baldwin, Karine Polwart, Robert Kennedy Jr.

The 6:30 p.m. screening on the 5th September at Aberdeen Union Square has a Q&A with Director Anthony Baxter and characters from the film. A funny and eye-opening documentary exploring the environmental impact of luxury golf courses around the world.

Three years ago, Anthony Baxter released his entertaining ‘You’ve Been Trumped’. It followed US tycoon Donald Trump’s controversial plan to build a golf resort on Scotland’s beautiful, unspoilt north-east coastline. This was hailed as the best documentary of the year by renowned film critic Mark Kermode.

Now Baxter’s follow-up finds out what happened to Trump’s scheme – and to local farmer Michael Forbes, who refused to sell his land to the billionaire.

This time, Trump agrees to a full interview, which proves to be a memorable encounter! Baxter also broadens his scope to take a look at the ecological cost of similar luxury resorts being constructed for the super-rich in other countries. His travels take him as far afield as China, Las Vegas and Dubrovnik in Croatia. Contributors include environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy and actor and activist Alec Baldwin.

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

  30 Responses to “Further Conversation With Anthony Baxter”

  1. Everybody has to go and see this film. Excellent article Suzanne, and for all those who are beating the drum for Salmond, think very carefully about how he has treated the Menie residents. I too have written to him and he continues, even now, to brush what has happened there, aside. Is this a blueprint for Scotland’s future?

    • No one is voting for Alec Salmond, the vote is to determine Scotland’s future and whether the Scottish people will govern themselves, please stop your attempt at petty point scoring.

      • that’s funny, I thought this piece is not about the referendum and this piece makes it clear the film is not about the referendum, but that Alex Salmond should be accountable to his constituents; he got them into this situation; he’s not bothered to go and visit them. What article are you reading, Bill?

      • I’m replying to your good friend Dorothy [comment moderated to remove insulting, inaccurate personal attack]

      • Why not pull up your friend, Scotlands “blueprint”, the vote is for Scotlands future, after that if its yes you get to vote for whoever you like.

        Alec Salmond is not what we’re voting for.

      • and again, this article is about Alex Salmond (who is somehow ‘Alec’ to you) not visiting the people he’s been elected to represent who he knows are suffering because of Trump’s activiites. It’s not about the referendum. Perhaps that is a very difficult concept but other readers seem to be working it out

  2. Why ask if he’s going to following developments at Turnberry and Ireland?? Are you also going to ask him to look into every golf course that changes hands?

    Interesting that Anthony says the following, “Something in our democracy is broken and we have to fix it.”

    Perhaps he should do a documentary on democracy being ignored when the local people voted for a new City garden, that was the biggest slap in the face to democracy that I’ve ever witnessed.

    • Hello again Bill,

      With respect, I think you just might be missing the point. You see, these other resorts you mention already existed and did not require the intervention of the Scottish Government to overturn democratic decisions, or building to take place on land which had the highest level of protection possible, or lobbying by the business community, or the sycophancy and corruption, in my opinion, of the local media, or the clear abuse of the rights of private citizens, or lies about the creation of jobs, or the arrest of journalists for trying to do their jobs.

      Please tell me you understand the difference Bill.

      • Thank you Bruce Wood for putting it so succinctly. Says it all.

      • I know that Ford doesn’t speak for me, the worst kind of politician in the World imo, it was so right that his view was ignored, [updated to remove personal insulting comments]

      • when you say ‘it was so right that his view was ignored’ – what view was that? – when his committee voted to uphold existing law and protect the SSSI designation given to the sand dunes? To respect the legal protection given to the environment? That’s all he did.

  3. It makes me laugh at the attempt to portray the Menie residents as persecuted people, they live by the seaside and had a golf course built next to them, not an incinerator or power station, a golf course, one that many people deem the best in the Country and one that is very nice to look at.

    If this wasn’t built by a rich man I suspect the local socialists wouldn’t have batted an eye.

    You want real stories of hardship try doing an article on the people who are forced to visit food banks in our oil rich city, the crocodile tears for home owning middle class people living on the beach is wearing thin.

    • Ye really hinna got a clue hiv ye Bill. Hiv ye ivver chatted ti the Munros ,the Forbes or the Milnes an fun oot fit REALLY wint on durin an efter the golf course wis biggit.Until ye div min ye really canna comment aboot whither or no they hiv or hivna bin persecuted. Fit class ye shove them in his git bugger aa ti dee wi the argument.A’ve bin a gowfer fer some 50 odd ‘ears an agree the course is a gweed een. Pairt o it jist shudna hae bin biggit on a legally protectit bit o grun.Naebody wis complainin aboot a gowf course per se.

      • Mr Smith sir! Will we be seeing you at the film tomorrow at 6.30, Union Square (and / or after)? Would be a pleasure –

      • [ this post moderated to comply with Aberdeen Voice policy]

        Bob, in my opinion if this course was built by joe bloggs it would be a non story.

        My folks house used to look out onto fields, now it is Bucksburn academy, where is the story of their hardship??

        If Trump built it you lot would be all over it in my opinion.

        The funny thing is I think that the set of writers here will all be at the music hall this weekend indulging in the arts, I don’t think there isn’t a low earner amongst you all, the arty set in my opinion, who I believe are sitting in brewdog putting the World to rights while massaging wax into your trendy moustache. I don’t believe this isn’t the Aberdeen voice, I believe it’s a platform for left wing vegans, the causes you are following are all aimed at middle class rich people in my opinion.

        Don crossing going through Tillydrone has been ignored, food banks have been ignored, the masive lack of social housing, again ignored, i believe you’re you’re all in a middle class bubble attacking those richer than you, the real problems are the people under your upturned noses.

        A golf course where in my opinion a half dozen families have been inconvenienced has been on these pages for Months, come on Bob, you must see that starving poor families are a bigger issue.

        Enjoy the music hall day btw, I’m sure the paintings will be nice.

      • Dear Bill, There is so much wrong with what you say in this post, I’ll find a better way to spend my time than countering all your claims. I am sorry you’ve missed all the articles and comments in AV that have dealt with urban sprawl and over development; somehow they seem to have eluded you. I am sorry to think you believe the objection to all of the things going on at Menie is solely that Trump’s been involved. You cannot have digested the articles documenting the lack of democracy, the illegal treatment of people, the contempt for the right to roam, etc. etc. I am trying to figure out how you object to some urban sprawl, chide us incorrectly for ignoring the issue, but at the same time are in favour of urban sprawl at Menie, and the loss of legal protection from a completely unique, important dune system. It is, to me, completely incongruent.

        But your contempt for the arts is one thing. ‘Indulge in the arts?’ – I think you’ll find that for some of us, arts practice, appreciation of art is an enriching experience, and one that need not cost any money at all.

        If you think Trump and Wood and their ilk are middle class, I wonder who you class as rich?

        And yes, there are been articles and posts about food banks – it is a crime we need them in 21st century UK.

      • I never said they were middle class, I said you and your pals are, read before commenting please.

      • well, the implication seems to be that ‘indulging’ in the arts is an affliction of the middle classes; I can assure you that the Trumps and Woods likewise indulge in culture. In fact many people with little money find that the arts are accessible (and even moving, thought-provoking and stimulating to some of us).

      • The edits on my post have been done to make me look like a thick uneducated mutant, the “I believe” stuff was not my writing. You should not edit peoples posts without their permission, just because I disagree with you does not mean I’m attacked in this manner.

        Nothing I wrote was anywhere close to being defamatory, your editing has been done to detract from my perfectly valid opinions, I’m born and bred in Aberdeen, my “Voice” is as valid or even more than yours.

        To clarify; in my opinion you’re posting articles aimed at your audience, ie the brewdog middle class people you know, the people of Aberdeen who you claim to be the voice for have way bigger worries than a half dozen middle class people living on the edge of a golf course being inconvenienced. Come into the real World. [post moderated – sorry Bill, if you keep stating things as facts, or insulting people, the post will be moderated. nothing in the moderation has taken away from the gist of your comments]

      • Bill’s many posts will be moderated the same way as anyone else’s. Stating things as facts which are not factual (and in some cases are insulting, which is unnecessary to make comment on an article, then expect ‘in my opinion’ or ‘I believe’ to be added to such statements to make it clear that they are not factual). Bill, dear – perhaps you should find something else to be reading; my work does seem to upset you so. As to Brewdog’s customers all being middle class, they’re very amused to hear it. Bill, we will either edit any such further posts from you, or we will simply not be able to use them. Defamation is not the only reason a post will be moderated; you must surely realise that. If anyone believes they look like a ‘thick uneducated mutant’ due to the words ‘I think’, or ‘I believe’ being added to make it clear to readers that something is an opinion and not a fact, well, there is little we can do about that except to ask the poster to reconsider their position. It is hardly an ‘attack’ of any sort to clarify fact from opinion.

    • So the not at all confused man who claims to vote for the Conservative and Unionists AND for the socialism of those Scottish nationalists espousing Independence, whilst clearly having a bit of a thing for rich people and dismissive of those he considers to be socialists now wants to champion the cause of those who use food banks. Just one question Bill because I know you never answer anyway:

      Have you ever felt embarrassed?

      • I will vote conservative in a independent Scotland, I despise Socialists and I believe that you are the embarrassment my friend, you seem too scared of letting go of the spivs in Englands coattails, too scared to let the people of our Country run our Country. I believe you will have to explain what I see as your weakness to your children in years to come, how ashamed of you I think they’ll be as our Country crumbles beneath us. [post moderated. Bill, can you please try to contain your remarks to factual comments rather than personal attacks, thank you]

  4. Hi Bill,

    I just wanted to let you know that once upon a time, during the dim and distant days of my gloriously decadent youth, and after an evening of spectacular over – indulgence, I was on my way home from Bucksburn when I was abducted by aliens who just so happened to be ” thick uneducated mutants”. Having read some of the comments here, I have decided, in retrospect, that they were actually relatively intelligent.

    I just felt the need to share this with you so that you might stop indulging in the negative stereo – typing of my old friends.

  5. Eh Suzanne fit hiv a said ti upset ye. Am assumin ye mint ti say Dear Bill in an earlier post instead o Dear Bob.

    As regards comin ti see the film “A Dangerous Game”. A’m gutted a canna mak it bit hope ti see it a later showin.

    An Bill git a grip min. Yer bias agin onybody fa his a go at Trumpie is weerin a bit thin.A’ll say it again. It his got nithin ti dee wi Trump bein rich!!!It his got nithin ti dee wi Trump bein rich!!! It his nithing ti dee wi Trump bein rich !!!. His es sunk in yet. No –Then a’m sorry bit yer past help.Oh an bye the wye a’m neither socialist nor Tory an ma wife an I SURVIVE on oor pensions. Ye canna pigeon hole fowk jist cos they happen ti hae a particular view.

    • well spotted Bob, and thanks – have corrected ‘Bob’ to ‘Bill’. Intelligent, logical corrections always welcome by me, and are appreciated. We’ll get you to a showing of A Dangerous Game; it’s oot for 7 days at CineWorld – not that you’d know that from the P&J which, I was told, omitted the film from its listing of films playing in the area. No doubt they will correct their error just as I corrected my error once you pointed it out to me.

      • Hi Suzanne,

        My wife and I had reserved seats for Friday but we had to cancel at the last minute. Real shame as I had hoped to have the opportunity to meet you and other contributors to AV. We will try to get there some time this week.

        Press & Journal what can one say?

      • Shame, but I hope you go during the run; if you do get to it, please let me know when you’ll be there

      • PS – the film has been held over! Almost unprecedented for a documentary to get a major cinema chain like CineWorld to release it in the first place, but it is not only held over, it’s going to other theatres as well! Am very pleased for all involved. Check the CineWorld link for more info – see article.

  6. Again Bill I suspect you are castin aspershuns agin Cooncillor Ford withoot ivver spikkin ti the mannie.
    “The worst kind o politician in the warld” Michty me Bill ye must meet a helluva lot o politicians afore ye can come up wi es view.. Funnily aneuch Martin Ford wis voted as bein een o the top three guests fowk liked ti listen till on Lesley Riddoch’s radio programme a fyow ‘ear ago. Es poll wis teen amang listeners ti BBC Radio Scotland. Check it oot yersel if ye dinna believe me

    • I have spoke to him Bob, many times, I don’t like the man or his opinions, in my opinion we’d still be living in caves if the likes of him had led us through the years.

      Anyone who commutes in Aberdeen knows we need better infrastructure, my commute from Dyce to Bucksburn has been near the hour mark this week, new industrial estates are springing up everywhere, you ask his opinion on this and it’s cycle paths we need, in my opinion that isn’t a bad thought but it needs to be coupled with road building, we need this bypass and dual carriageway from the airport to the City with flyovers instead of roundabouts, your stand up politician wants none of these, we don’t need the bypass in his opinion.

      I’m all for being green but anyone who objects to every improvement to our infrastructure shouldn’t be a councillor, we can’t stand still, with a growing population you need houses and transport, your man Ford likes to block, he doesn’t offer many alternatives imo.

      Wind power is the big green argument, you drive to Huntly and tell me those subsidised bird and bat killing monstrosities are what you want to see all over our Countryside and coast, they’re lauded on the Aberdeen Voice as Trump doesn’t like them, who cares they kill dolphins, whales and inland wildlife, Trump doesn’t like them, they’re good.

      I get people calling me not intelligent enough to debate with here, it goes unmoderated, the editor even backs the author of that yet all my posts get picked apart and moderated, my facebook has even been snooped on and used against me to the point I don’t use my real name here. I am the Aberdeen voice, I’m a lifelong citizen here, my views on the gardens debate were shared by over 50% of the people living here, it’s a real shame imo that people are put off from posting in the comments section, I’ve had people say to me they’ve seen me getting attacked for my views and they agree with me but won’t post due to my treatment. You and your friends really need to either change the title of this publication or stop attacking anyone who doesn’t agree with you.

      [Bill, we do try to pass as many comments as we can without moderation or amendment of any kind. Whilst your posts are the only ones you can know to have been moderated and how, I can assure you that yours are not the only ones moderated. Moderation, rather than being a process of cutting out, is more aimed at keeping content in, and thereby keeping the poster included and engaged in discussion. We do not always indicate that posts have been moderated, and when we do, it is as a means of providing advice and guidance to enable posters to self moderate … thereby making it unnecessary for us to do so. – Moderator]

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