The War Between Media and Trump: Q&A with “Citizen Trump’’ Director
Robert Orlando: “Most who are successful operate from a deep wound, and want to prove others wrong’’
Film Director Robert Orlando next month releases “Citizen Trump: A One Man Show,’’ where he likens Donald Trump to Trump’s favorite film, the classic “Citizen Kane.’’
We got the chance to do a question and answer with Robert Orlando and his latest film that debuts September 7.
Q: So Mr. Orlando thank you for joining us today for this interview. So let’s jump right into it, you say your film is not a political film.
RO: Correct. But according to my viewers, it can decide the election!
Q: So why choose Trump?
RO: Trump dominates our media and news cycle 24/7. You can’t look in a different direction and not see Trump.
I also have been competing for air time with Trump news for the last two to three years.
When I rewatched Kane during Covid, I was struck by the similarities, and thought it would be interesting to explore Trump with the Kane themes.
When I found out Kane was Trump’s favorite film, that sealed it! The dramatic part is where will it end?
Q: Okay so let’s talk about the news. You say it’s not a political film, then why talk about the news? Why have a film that’s focused on the media?
RO: Because the media is the way we engage the world, there are no other outlets. We gain information through our phones, cable coverage, memes and tweets, and Facebook.
We’re being assaulted or distracted by the media on every level. The war between media and Trump is the prevalent story, and the grand narrative of our times, so it’s unavoidable if you want to engage the modern world.
Q: Okay, so who’s the protagonist?
Trump is an antihero with blind spots and flaws that are self-wounding. Trump was able to emerge as a result of the Obama presidency that dismissed traditional Americans as crazy religious gun owners.
Obama unwittingly made himself an antagonist, along with the media. Media coverage, I think all of the networks, set up a conflict with Trump that has become the main show for the rest of us — our reality TV show.
Q: Well, so far I hear a lot of political commentary from you. Where is the filmmaker, what’s the filmmaker saying here?
The filmmaker is saying that this conflict with media and political power is as old as mankind. Citizen Kane was a film that captured an earlier time (with Hearst) in the same way.
These are cycles we live over and over again, and I think my film explores Kane to say to our modern world, forget your political party, how do we end this vicious cycle? How do we shut this white noise off? This is like watching a food fight that also forces us to watch.
Q: Thank you for clarifying that comparison. I guess if history repeats itself, how did it end with Kane?
With Kane, it ended with a tragedy because Kane even with all his power and self-aggrandizement, forgot something that was sacred, and that is the connection with other human beings, which left him alone, sad, and tragic.
In the case of Trump we have not seen the “end of the movie,” but we know he must have a “rosebud.” Why do I know that? Because we all do!
Q: So the third party that we haven’t talked about, which is part of this film, is the audience, it’s the American people. What role do they play in this?
RO: That’s really my concern. I’m looking past politicians, I’m looking past the media, and I’m looking into the faces in the audience. We need to shut down the crazy $&^show occupying our mind and redefining our education, and our history.
So as a filmmaker, I’m reaching to the audience and I’m saying whether this election, or the next election, this war is becoming the destiny of our country. One’s performance in media should NOT rule our lives, and choose our leaders.
Q: What do you mean by “perform for the media”? Because clearly you focus on Trump as a performance?
Trump was given a stage, because of the American bashing that went on for decades. A radical new voice reshaping and even erasing our legacy.
This radicalization in the daily media leads to a level of desperation, which is what requires a media gunslinger.
Self-sufficient billionaire, with a successful TV show, BIG personality, and practiced showman. Someone who could match the assault of the media and still survive. I also don’t think the average viewer or voter knows the genius of media savvy, and the ability to shape a story and win the narrative.
Q: Do you think he’s maintained his popularity? His numbers did go down.
RO: If you asked most people privately who support him, they would admit he’s morally flawed, and maybe his past life as a showman was something they overlooked.
And right now he might be the only bullhorn to pierce the media noise and push back the radicalization. Trump might be the only flawed figure standing between the America we knew and the America about to be erased.
As I show in the film, traditional voters might feel that there are forces in the streets more dangerous than Trump’s flawed character.
Q: So it seems like the majority of our conversation still has pivoted to politics.
RO: Look at what happened with Kane, which could happen with Trump. Here’s the media again, Kane had his fights with the media, and this has never stopped, but the American nation continued.
Welles wanted to make a statement in his time about Kane (Hearst)and his obsession with acquisitions, much larger than the relevant measure of Trump today. The need to place material gain above human bonds. He did it pretty well, don’t you think?
Q: So what’s the responsibility, what’s the takeaway, the actionable next steps that you want your audience to do after watching this film?
RO: I think to start — start thinking on your own, be individually responsible and watch the film. Have an open mind and come to your own conclusion, and stop leaning on the prejudged thoughts of others!
It’s just a film, it can’t bite you, but could persuade you. That could be VERY scary. Or maybe we can just share an honest journey as fellow travelers.
Q: So how do we address the media with this issue, because it sounds like the media is culpable, and in addition, there’s a whole new rising of Millennials that actually seem to be victims of media consumption at this point. You know the media and academia have created the movements for these Millennials. And they don’t have a reference, that’s exactly my point.
RO: I never thought I would actually say this without feeling like I was exaggerating, but (Karl) Marx invokes his readers to destroy anything that’s sacred or traditional.
We have watched the media for generations fixated on this mission. Even the Yellow Journalism of our time, the constant cycles of news feeding with clickbait, fragmented pieces of information that don’t fit into our past American narrative, but a corrosive force challenging the traditional as suspicious. It’s corrosive, weird, and dangerous.
Q: Let’s get back to the film because that’s why we’re here today. And let’s end on a note where this is a filmmaker’s piece of art. What’s one last thing that you would like your audience to appreciate and to understand about your vision making this film as a filmmaker?
RO: I made a film because a story is more powerful than political rhetoric. Stories acknowledge that ALL suffer, and are weak. Everyone wants to thrive, and belong, and the human journey is so common. It’s bigger than radicalism and Media, or parties, or deeply flawed politicians like Trump.
Q: It seems like you humanize Trump early on.
RO: I hope as a filmmaker I see humanity first in every character. Shakespeare’s plays were about despots. Trump, like all human beings, is to be pitied. To not see this, is to begin with a child’s mind seeking to find monsters in the closet.
Don’t forget that ambition, as much as you like it or not, is a virtue, and most who are successful operate from a deep wound and want to prove others wrong.
Trump is not unique. Sometimes, I feel his enemies are more envious than they are morally superior. He played their media game and beat them, and I think they hate him for that.
How “Citizen Kane” Explains Donald Trump
Robert Orlando’s 2020 documentary shows Trump’s favorite film is a road map to his methods
Click here to pre-order the film on demand before its September 7 release.