Only 11 days after he started filming and just a few hours after locking the picture, Michael Moore sat in the back of New York’s IFC Center to watch the premiere of his latest project: the surprise film Michael Moore in TrumpLand.
After announcing the film Tuesday on Twitter, the Fahrenheit 9/11 director hosted an impromptu free screening of TrumpLand, assembled from footage of his one-man performance in Ohio earlier this month. The result is a film that feels a little like a stand-up comedy special, a little like a Spalding Gray monologue, and a little like a political ad championing Hillary Clinton.
Speaking to the audience before and after the screening, Moore revealed that he made TrumpLand not to convert hardcore fans of Donald Trump but as an effort to mobilize undecided or apathetic voters. As a result, the final film is structured as less of a Trump hatchet job and more of a love letter to Clinton, as Moore cracks jokes, rhapsodizes about universal health care, and attempts to find common ground with his occasionally stone-faced audience.
“I think it is dangerous to think we can win for a negative reason, that if we just scare enough people about Trump, we’ll win,” Moore told the audience in New York. “That’s too risky for me, and I just thought, I’m going to do something here and give people positive reasons to think about voting for her.”
Earlier this month, Moore performed his live show in Wilmington, Ohio, an overwhelmingly Republican town he’s dubbed “TrumpLand.” He estimated that over the two nights he filmed the performance, the audience was made up of 50 percent Clinton supporters and 50 percent Trump supporters, undecided voters, and third party voters.
“If you support Hillary Clinton and you’ve been doing this end zone dance and celebrating her early victory, you’ve been helping to defeat her by doing that,” Moore said. “Any time you’ve felt good about how the debate went or every stupid, ridiculous thing that Trump has done and started to feel like we’ve got this in the bag, it’s a dangerous position to take. There’s a long tradition of Americans electing people that you don’t think they’re going to elect. So I’ve taken this election very seriously.”
Although Moore said that he has never before voted for Clinton, outlining his own disagreements with her policies, he speaks candidly in the film about how much he admires her as a candidate. With a San Francisco 49ers baseball cap perched on his head, he intercuts his live performance with a fake Trump campaign ad, audio of Clinton’s 1969 Wellesley commencement speech, and a newsreel imagining Trump’s first day in office (which includes bombing Mexico and deporting Rosie O’Donnell).
He also kicked off the show by promising to make the Trump supporters in the audience feel more comfortable — by placing the “Muslim-looking” audience members under drone surveillance and building a wall around the “Mexican-looking” audience.
“It’s like one of us went to Dr. Frankenstein last year and said we need a candidate to run who could be the embodiment of every bad trait of men and white people and put that into one candidate,” Moore said after the screening. “Have him embody white privilege, misogyny, everything all rolled into one.”
“My fantasy on Nov. 8 is a 50-state sweep that will send such a strong and loud message that the dinosaurs have died,” he added.
“Sh– happens,” Moore said. “Kaitlyn, we all thought she was going to go with Nick, and she picked Shawn on The Bachelorette. Jennifer Hudson lost on American Idol. Our fellow Americans voted for Fantasia. Where’s Fantasia now? They voted for Fantasia over Jennifer Hudson. I’m telling you, sh– happens! You think Jennifer Hudson had it in the bag, no problem there. No! Fantasia won, folks! Don’t let Fantasia win on Nov. 8!”
According to Moore, TrumpLand doesn’t have a distributor yet, but he plans to roll it out in theaters over the next few weeks and make it available to stream online before the election.