Rooftop Talks: Maxim Pozdorovkin

Maxim Pozdorovkin’s Our New President is a vodka-soaked fever-dream of a documentary that chronicles Donald Trump’s rise to power solely through Russian propaganda. Screening this Thursday, August 9th, at the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus as part of Rooftop’s 2018 Summer Series, the film is dually horrifying and hilarious; a satirical portrait of Russian meddling in the 2016 election that reveals an empire of fake news and the tactics of modern day information warfare. We caught up with Maxim to get the behind the scenes scoop on this audacious cinematic experience–

ROOFTOP FILMS: Being from Russia and therefore familiar with both Russian & American culture, as well as media, how do you think the propaganda machines of both countries compare?

MAXIM POZDOROVKIN: Similar mechanisms and manipulation techniques are at work in Russian and American news cultures! In Russia, the state-steered television channels more reliably resort to outright fabrication, which generates many hilarious and horrifying moments.

RF: What was your research and selection process for compiling all the resources and clips used?

MP: A small team of brave researchers sat for six months and culled from a cesspool of propaganda, causing themselves semi-permanent brain damage in the process. The selection process is always the same: the heart wants what it wants, you just have to tune in and listen.

RF: What made you decide to also include homemade YouTube clips on the same playing field as major news networks?

MP: The film is about the feedback loop that exists between television and internet culture. We needed the YouTube clips in order to show how disinformation travels.

RF: Who/what were some of your main inspirations for pursuing this documentary and in this particular way?

MP: Ken Jacobs’ Star Spangled to Death, Adam Curtis, Esther Shub.

RF: Is there any content you had to cut in the editing process that you wish you had room to keep in the film? If so, why?

MP: With this movie, the issue was not the room, it was that some things were just too disturbing to put in the movie.

RF: How did you build the arc for the film and maintain the pacing to deliver an entertaining and compelling story from clips & home videos?

MP: By editing and re-editing for 56 weeks, cutting away everything that didn’t feel like a movie.

RF: What made you decide to present the footage in a way without ever really taking a stance on any of the issues presented?

MP:  I want people to have a visceral experience of disorientation, which is the essence of modern day propaganda. To feel fake news as a corrosive menace, rather than explain it analytically.

Questions by Megan McMillon

For tickets to/more information on Our New President, click here.