PARK CITY, Utah – Remember Steve Bannon?
The former chief strategist to President Donald Trump was once one of the most divisive figures in politics, who in 2017, helped spearhead the so-called “Muslim ban” and craft Trump’s rhetoric blaming “both sides” after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
But since he was fired from the Trump administration in August 2017, Bannon has been mostly out of the headlines, save for his departure from Breitbart News last year and the president’s continued mocking of him on Twitter.
Now, a new documentary is here to catch you up on Bannon’s whereabouts. “The Brink,” which premieres at Sundance Film Festival on Wednesday, gives a window into the alt-right advocate’s daily life since his White House ousting: traveling around the country endorsing Republican candidates before last November’s midterm elections, and meeting with right-wing leaders throughout Europe in hopes of creating a “united populist agenda.”
Director Alison Klayman (2012’s “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”) takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to the doc, capturing Bannon in rare unguarded moments at home and on the road. Within the film’s first 15 minutes, he admires the architectural achievements of Auschwitz concentration camp, and simultaneously denounces and defends his short-lived White House stint.
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“There’s no glamour to the job. I hated every second I was there,” Bannon says. “The West Wing has bad karma to it. They say, ‘Because you were doing bad stuff!’ But I was doing the Lord’s work.”
Curiously, he never throws Trump himself under the bus, even praising the president for teaching him that there is no such thing as “bad press.”
“Donald Trump is a historical figure and a transformative president,” he says at one point. “Donald Trump will be in your personal life 30 years from now, whether you like it or not.”
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The doc won’t do anything to silence Bannon’s critics, who have repeatedly called him “tone-deaf” and a “loser.” (The audience at a recent advance screening erupted in laughter when his nephew said young Bannon looked like David Bowie.) But occasional moments of humanity do come through, including late in the film, when a close friend challenges him on the migrant separation crisis.
“A child can’t be taken from a parent’s arms,” Bannon responds. “That’s inhuman.”
“Brink” has so far received mixed reviews from critics, with The Hollywood Reporter wondering “what ordinary viewers at any point on the political spectrum will gain from this particular status report.” You can find out for yourself March 29, when Magnolia releases the doc in theaters.