America’s Political, Legal and Cultural Underbelly Explored by Trio of Filmmakers at CPH:DOX
Don’t expect to see Roger Stone at the CPH:DOX premiere of “A Storm Foretold.”
In the documentary, directed by Danish filmmaker Christoffer Guldbrandsen, Stone’s efforts to aid former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election are captured.
More from Variety
'Motherland' Review: An Ominous Portrait of the Oppressive Culture of Cruelty in Post-Soviet Belarus
How CPH:DOX Became One of the Most Influential Documentary Events of the Year
“(Roger) has threatened us with a $25 million lawsuit, and he’s called me fat,” says Guldbrandsen. “Right now, we are communicating through our lawyers.”
“A Storm Foretold” along with “Praying for Armageddon” and “Victim/Suspect” are three films screening at CPH:DOX that explore America’s political, legal and cultural underbelly.
Guldbrandsen and cinematographer Frederik Marbell began filming Stone, Trump’s former advisor, in 2018. They followed the Republican kingmaker in the final months of the Trump administration, which culminated in the storming of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.
(In 2022, the House committee investigation into the assault on the Capitol subpoenaed footage from Guldbrandsen and Marbell. Ultimately, the committee received approximately 10 minutes out of 170 hours that the crew had shot over the course of three years.)
While Guldbrandsen was given incredible behind-the-scenes access to Stone, he explains that “A Storm Foretold” was never intended to be solely about the longtime Republican’s questionable antics or tirades. Instead, the director says that the docu is about the political revolution unfolding in America and how an established political party turned into an anti-democratic movement.
“I think that people in all modern democracies are concerned about whether we are next in line to experience something similar to what is happening in the U.S.,” says Guldbrandsen. “So, the film was an ambition to try and understand a movement that I found really difficult to make sense of.”
Norwegian film director Tonje Hessen Schei also traveled to the U.S. to get a better understanding of the country’s political upheaval. In her docu “Praying for Armageddon,” Schei and co-director Michael Rowley investigate the power and influence that American fundamentalist Evangelical Christians have over U.S. politics. The film explains how the infiltration of fundamentalist Evangelicals into America’s political system has not only become a threat to the country’s democracy, but also U.S. foreign policy and the volatile situation in the Middle East.
“All of my films look at power systems in the U.S. that sort of shape our world,” explains Schei.
In 2014, Schei and Rowley began following American Evangelicals including Doomsday preachers, politicians and motorcycle-riding warriors of God all hoping to fulfill the Armageddon prophecy.
“(Fundamentalist Evangelicals’) political power in America today is unprecedented,” says Schei. “In the film, we show that they have really built this architecture in the Washington D.C. political system, and they make up the backbone of the Republican party. They are also considered to be king makers of presidential candidates. I don’t think that people around the world or even in U.S. really understand what their hidden agenda is.”
Filmmaker Nancy Schwartzman didn’t have to travel abroad to expose the American judicial system’s predisposition to distrust victims of rape. In “Victim/Suspect,” the Los Angeles-based director follows Rae de Leon, a reporter working at The Center for Investigative Reporting, as she uncovers an astonishing number of legal cases nationwide that involve women reporting sexual assault to the police, only to be accused of fabricating their allegations. The docu reveals that in spite of the #MeToo movement, which gained worldwide attention in 2017, in the U.S. the roles of rape perpetrator and rape victim can easily be erroneously reversed.
“The film lets people know that unfortunately it’s very risky (to report a rape) in this country and here is why,” says Schwartzman. “Law enforcement can lie to you. Law enforcement can turn you into a suspect. These things can happen. We don’t want to believe they can happen. We want to believe there’s a safe place we can turn to.”
“Victim/Suspect” focuses on the problem of police practices and the institutional biases that exist within police units and the American legal system.
“We’ve all seen in the past several years this kind of reckoning with our systems that are in place,” says Schwartzman. “Who do they serve? It is not a victim-centered process when you go to report a (sexual abuse) crime to the police. It is not victim-centered and it’s not trauma informed. With this documentary what I really wanted to do was harness people’s anger and outrage because we don’t want to be defeated. I want people to ask – ‘What can we do?’ Here is this fixable problem. Where do we start?”
Best of Variety
Final Oscars Predictions: Animated Short - Will the Academy Go for 'The Boy' or 'Dicks?'
Final Oscar Predictions: Documentary Short - Will the Academy Go for Malala or 'Elephants?'
Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.