A close-up portrait of Roger Stone, Trump’s disgraced political “fixer” and architect of the January 2021 insurrection. A compelling, frightening image of unbridled power and how far people will go to hang on to it.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
Using Donald Trump’s notorious political fixer Roger Stone as his focal character, Danish documentarist Christoffer Guldbrandsen unpicks the prehistory of the January 2021 insurrection in Washington D.C.
This is a classic case of right-time, right-place filmmaking, as Guldbrandsen began his project in 2018, before Stone was arrested and convicted for witness tampering and lying to congress, pardoned by the president, and quietly reinstated in time to orchestrate his ‘Stop the Steal’ masterplan that led to the attempted coup. The film crew are there for the entire rollercoaster ride, up until the immediate, acrimonious, aftermath of January 6, and capture major players being astoundingly candid—or astoundingly reckless—on camera. As the title implies, it’s all laid out in plain sight for months and years before the “unthinkable” happened, and the film also marshals copious broadcast footage of Stone and his presidential and Proud Boys cronies clearly or codedly announcing how far they are prepared to go to hold on to power. As far as Stone is concerned, the biggest surprise on the day is a last-minute snub that sends him into a paranoid panic, seasoned with bursts of seething, impotent rage.
Guldbrandsen’s own journey is possibly even more eventful. He is frank about the mutual exploitation that underpins his relationship with Stone and at one point is “fired” when his subject thinks he’s got a better offer. Then, in the middle of the project, something happens that you’ve probably never seen in any other film (no spoilers here!). Despite constant ribbing from Stone as a “Commie”, Guldbrandsen quietly holds his ground and accumulates his evidence. After a particularly unhinged and unprecedented telephone rant, Stone’s last words to the camera are: “Obviously, if you use any of that I’ll murder you.” — Andrew Langridge