We’re big fans of Alyson Klayman’s work at Bertha DocHouse, so when we heard she was making a doc on far-right political figure and press executive, Steve Bannon, our attention was certainly piqued.
The Brink follows Bannon as he embarks on a campaign to unite extreme parties in a bid to win seats for the 2019 European Parliamentary Elections. Given Bannon’s skill in manipulating the press, it was no surprise that he would embrace being the subject, or the face of, not just one, but multiple documentaries. Errol Morris’s American Dharma (2018), for example, focused on Bannon’s controversial philosophies, interrogating them head on.
But Klayman, who also made the award-winning Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, has a different approach. She immerses viewers into his daily routines and rituals, offering a behind-closed-doors portrayal of Trump’s former chief strategist. The result is an insightful, and often unnerving look into the qualities that make Bannon one of the most divisive, and effective, political strategists in the US.
As a documentarian, Klayman manages to expose Bannon’s flaws without requiring interjection. Her observational and unobtrusive gaze offers a more subtle exposition of his operating mode.
The Brink’s verité style means Klayman doesn’t have to editorialise the point that Bannon is one of the most dangerous political figures alive, he does that for her. We see Bannon under fire from journalists like, The Guardian’s Paul Lewis, denying his alleged anti-Semitic views and dog-whistle tactics, which he does not handle well.
Klayman doesn’t offer a platform for the self-appointed globalist leader, either; she cleverly lets Bannon’s narrative unfold on its own. Being shot in the present day evades a polished, talking head version of Bannon. Instead, The Brink is a chilling portrait of far-right politics today, an urgent documentary which lets audiences see the inner workings of one its puppet masters.
Alison Klayman’s Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry was one of the highest-grossing, female directed films of 2012, and although The Brink embodies a very different political standpoint, Klayman has skilfully created an engaging and thought-provoking documentary that has just as much potential to intrigue audiences.
Bertha DocHouse are showing The Brink on the 11th July, followed by a Q&A with Guardian associate editor Paul Lewis. Visit the film’s website to find where the film is available to stream or acquire on DVD. Follow The Brink on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and follow Alison Klayman on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and on her website.
I am currently an intern for Bertha DocHouse and am studying an MA in Film Programming and Curation at Birkbeck University of London. I also studied Filmmaking at the Manchester School, focusing on experimental documentary filmmaking.