The Brink

 

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Steve Bannon is ready for his close-up.

 
Brink, The
 

In the last two years the American politician Steve Bannon has taken his own course and has become a leading right-wing figure. His promotion of white nationalism has developed to the point when it sees him as the man intent on bringing together an alliance of European national parties sharing his outlook. Consequently, you can understand why a filmmaker should want to zoom in on him and in fact two have done so, Errol Morris with American Dharma (which has yet to gain a release here) and Alison Klayman with this film. It is surely safe to assume that neither of them wish him well and, if that leaves you wondering why Bannon acquiesced in these projects, The Brink supplies an answer. Referring to the earlier time when he was an important White House adviser and a Trump supporter, he declares that one thing he learnt from the President was that there is no bad media.

 

It is said that Morris in his film engages Bannon in critical debate, but The Brink is essentially observational. Klayman, photographer as well as director, was given access to follow Bannon around from the fall of 2017 through to his disappointment at the results in America’s mid-term elections in November 2018. She asks few questions herself (Bannon may have had a say in that) and when journalists are seen challenging him he proves essentially unflappable, a master of denial as when connections with Neo-Fascists are raised. Yet Klayman herself, best known for her sympathetic film Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012), gives this film a laid-back tone even early on when dealing with Bannon’s continuing support for Judge Roy Moore (he was the man who, running for senator in Alabama, found his campaign undermined by accusations of sexual misconduct).

 

In the course of this film, we do see Bannon talking up far right strategies with the likes of Nigel Farage and his tactics take full advantage of his belief that hate is a motivator. But, if such moments reflect the nature of the man as Klayman doubtless hoped they would, they are not revelatory but merely confirmatory of what most audiences for this film already recognise in him. In the circumstances, Klayman’s approach makes for a very dull documentary. One is reminded of how Errol Morris came unstuck when filming Donald Rumsfeld for The Unknown Known (2013) because his answers to questions were so elusive. Nevertheless, the questions were asked and watching Rumsfeld slide out of them had at least some interest. Sadly, Klayman fares even less well with Bannon because The Brink comes over as a non-event.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Stephen K. Bannon, Sean Bannon, Nigel Farage, Paul Lewis, John Thornton, Miles Kwok, Raheem Kassam, Jason Horowitz, Joshua Green, John James, Guo Wengui, Michael Wolff.

 

Dir Alison Klayman, Pro Marie Therese Guirgis, Ph Alison Klayman, Ed Brain Goetz and Marina Goetz, Music Ilan Isakov and Dan Teicher.

 

Magnolia Pictures/RYOT Films/AliKlay Productions/Claverie Films-Dogwoof.
91 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 12 July 2019. Cert. 15.