Doc legend debuted American Dharma at Venice, but buyers never materialized
Twitter is cheering on Errol Morris after the director announced plans to self-distribute his Steve Bannon film American Dharma. The documentary about the alt-right ideologist and head of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign held its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival last September and then screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, but shockingly failed to attract buyers.
"Fuck 'em. I will distribute the movie myself," Morris declared on his verified Twitter account Tuesday. He did not indicate who the "them" in "fuck 'em" referred to, but presumably that alluded to whichever distributors passed on the project (Morris' most recent film/series, Wormwood, premiered on Netflix; NEON distributed his 2016 documentary The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography).
"If Errol Morris can't get distribution, we're all fucked," director Brett Morgen tweeted, not long after Morris made his announcement.
Another fan helpfully made a graphic of Morris' statement, earning a re-tweet from the filmmaker.
Morgan Pehme, co-director of a documentary about Trump confidante Roger Stone, wrote on Twitter, "I want the opportunity to see American Dharma, Morris's Steve Bannon movie, and you should too. Tweet at your favorite distributor and tell them to buy this film!"
Morris also used the micro-blogging platform to solicit tag lines for American Dharma, which he said would soon get a trailer and one-sheet.
Morris did not specify when American Dharma would become available or how he planned to distribute it. His announcement comes as a separate Steve Bannon documentary, directed by Alison Klayman, is due to arrive in theaters. Her film, The Brink, opens in New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC on Friday, March 29 after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.
Bannon comes off as an affable advocate for white hegemony and populist "champion of the people" in The Brink, unapologetically talking up the virtues of nationalism in the U.S. and Europe, despite the atrocious impact of that worldview (see Hitler's Germany, Franco's Spain and Mussolini's Italy).
As for American Dharma, TIFF documentary programmer Thom Powers wrote, "Errol Morris gives Bannon a documentary treatment comparable to his profiles of Donald Rumsfeld in The Unknown Known and Robert McNamara in The Fog of War. Morris has a flare for illustrating his political dialogues with eclectic imagery. With Bannon, the interview is set in a Quonset hut that resembles a set from the Gregory Peck World War II drama Twelve O'Clock High. Bannon and Morris reference that film along with works by John Ford, Stanley Kubrick, and Orson Welles."
Below are a selection of tweets about American Dharma.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.