Film Review: ‘A Dangerous Game’

Anthony Baxter’s You’ve Been Trumped was one of the unexpected gems of 2011; a blood-boiling j’accuse at American fat cat Donald Trump and, more specifically, his construction of a luxury golf course for the super-rich on a portion of Aberdeenshire’s vast and pristine coastal sand dunes. Fobbed off by Trump’s cronies at every turn and even arrested by local police without due cause, Baxter succeeded in exposing the same type of expansionist greed so fabulously lampooned in Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero (1983). What a pleasant surprise, then, to see Baxter ‘trump’ his own inaugural outing with follow-up A Dangerous Game (2014), which takes the fight to Donald and his capitalist kind across the globe.

The pompous, self-aggrandising Trump is still central to the debate throughout, first dismissing Baxter’s crowd-funded yet eventually successful documentary as a “failure” before unveiling plans to open a second Scottish course in the near future. However, Trump isn’t the only one planning to trash an area of natural beauty in his pursuit of golfing profits. Above the historic Croatian city of Dubrovnik lies a UNESCO-protected hilltop deemed prime real estate for a world-beating course. Unfortunately for the developers and Dubrovnik’s own patently complicit mayor, the city’s year-round inhabitants are vehemently opposed. All across the globe it seems, from the green hills of Balmedie to the Nevada desert, local residents are bullied, governments influenced and waters supplies utterly ravaged, all in the name of golf-fronted big business.

Though it may seem egotistical to spend the first third of your new film lauding the impact of your last, You’ve Been Trumped made such an impact in its native Scotland and beyond that disregarding its existence would be omitting a significant portion of the story to date. Baxter – a retiring and amiable figure far removed from the brash and confrontational likes of Nick Broomfield and Michael Moore – is certainly aware of the role he must now play in proceedings, factoring in events in Dubrovnik after activists miraculously saw his debut and begged him to document their struggle. It’s back in Aberdeenshire and the sleepy seaside village of Balmedie where the real emotional connection of this doc lies, however. Back in front of the camera are farmer (and recently-crowned Top Scot) Michael Forbes, his octogenarian mother Molly and Susie Munro, each of whom will feel like old friends to those familiar with the previous film. Now as then, we cheer on when these valiant local heroes win back an inch after Trump has taken yet another mile.

Baxter is keen to point that A Dangerous Game isn’t intended as an anti-golf smear piece. His mother was a keen advocate of the sport, as is his eccentric uncle – who has somehow managed to collect over £70,000 for charity by finding and donating lost golf balls. As well as a scathing rebuttal of all-encompassing greed, Baxter’s film is also a quiet lamentation of the sport’s ongoing commodification, perfectly illustrated in a scene where the director attends an American convention for affluent fanatics. Golf is rapidly evolving from a popular pastime for the common (wo)man into a multi-billion dollar industry, only for those who can afford to be seen at the world’s most exclusive member’s clubs. What’s more, the game has been hijacked by unscrupulous Gordon Gekko-wannabes like Trump, who present themselves with awards for five-star hospitality (no, really) whilst destroying lives and lining their own deep pockets. It may not be subtle, but A Dangerous Game functions almost perfectly as a rousing, consistently enraging call to arms.

This A Dangerous Game review was originally published on 23 June as part of our extensive Sheffield Doc/Fest coverage.

Daniel Green