PARK CITY — The presidential election is over, but for the many people still wondering just how Donald Trump pulled off one of the greatest upsets in modern history, Showtime thinks it has the answer with “Trumped.”
The documentary, culled from the cabler’s campaign-season weekly reports, debuts for the press Monday at 2 p.m. at the Sundance Film Festival before getting its official premiere Friday in Park City.
Symmetry almost demands that “Trumped” debut in the final days of the 11-day festival, which began, after all, with a spasm of politics — most notably Thursday’s opening premiere of Al Gore’s global warming update, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” followed by Saturday’s fiery march of more than 1,000 against President Trump and in favor of a host of causes, ranging from access for the disabled, to LGBTQ rights to support for Planned Parenthood.
“Trumped” will get its public premiere Feb. 3 at 9 p.m., with Showtime believing the the sweeping summation of the Trump phenomena could help it solidify its position as a gathering place for people deeply attuned to current affairs. Showtime believes that it can become the home to hip, engaged audiences — a demographic that it has begun to win over with films like “Weiner,” about the sexting scandal that brought down U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, and “Zero Days,” probing the U.S.-Israeli malware attack on an Iranian nuclear facility that burgeoned beyond that target.
Vinnie Malhotra, the senior vice president in charge of Showtime Documentary Films as well as documentary sports programming, said the documentaries exemplify the kind of aggressive push Showtime is making to cover the contemporary world.
“We want to go deeper and more probing,” said Malhotra, who previously launched CNN Films. “You can combine celebrity, music and serious journalism together, in the way that Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone might do on the print journalism side.”
Trump already received lots of program time in “The Circus,” Showtime’s regular weekly look at the 2016 presidential campaign. But even after 26 episodes, “Trumped” allows Showtime to bring forward previously un-aired footage and to explain the race in a way people might not have understood before.
“Trumped” follows the candidate from the middle of 2015 through election day last November. “We have now looked more closely at Trump and tried to make a narrative on his rise and triumph, as one of the most original and unique political phenomenon of our lifetimes,” said John Heilemann, the Bloomberg Politics editor and former New York magazine scribe who co-hosted “The Circus” for Showtime.
Considerable previously unseen footage will “give a sense of what caught fire with his supporters and what they found compelling,” said Heilemann, the co-author with “The Circus” partner (and TIME magazine veteran) Mark Halperin of “Game Change” – about the rise of Sarah Palin during the 2008 race.
“Trumped” will show how his supporters could support the political neophyte despite queasiness about his talk and actions – such as the video of him boasting about grabbing women by their genitals and his campaign-opening description of some Mexican immigrants as “rapists.”
“They might have said they didn’t agree with the fact that Mexicans are rapists,” said Heilemann, “but that statement made it clear to [supporters] that he was not politically correct and poll tested and calibrated. They liked that.”
Trump is “one of the most original and unique political phenomena of our lifetimes,” said Heilemann, “and the movie gives you a sense of how Trumped pulled off what for some was unimaginable.”
The journalist said it’s possible that Showtime’s political series could find an extended life now that Trump is in office. He said he believed that David Nevins, president and CEO of Showtime Networks, would like to find a way to continue the program, though no deal is in place yet.
In the meantime, Heilemann will snowboard, visit with friends and take in a few films. He is sorry he will miss the 25th anniversary screening of Quentin Tarantino’s “Resevoir Dogs” and a panel with the director next Friday. “I have to go see my [‘Trumped’] premiere instead,” said the veteran journalist. “But that is a good problem to have.”