NYFF Review: ‘American Dharma”

American Dharma | Errol Morris | NYFF 2018

We’re currently living in an American nightmare of political horror under the reign of Donald Trump, one that I still can’t fully process. Nearly two years into his Presidency, it’s still hard to picture quite how we got to this point.

Errol Morris’ new documentary tries to help make it a little clearer, straight from the horses’ mouth. He sits down with Steve Bannon, the architect behind Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, who somehow managed to get the most unlikely of candidates of all time elected to the White House.

Morris frames in simply, putting Bannon alone in a cold isolating room where he sits down for a one-on-one allowing Bannon to tell his side of the story from the start of his career, his role with Breitbart News and then his time with Trump. While for many who watch, it’s hard to stomach Bannon, but it’s also hard to deny how fascinating it is to hear his side of the story, as painful as that may be.

While some will criticize Morris for almost humanizing Bannon (oh the irony there), he allows a clearer picture to be painted for how Trump got elected and what we as a nation missed. Although some of the questions he asked are undeniably fascinating, American Dharma doesn’t quite dig deep enough into it all to really take things the next necessary level for documentary filmmaking. Bannon even dips into the well of highlighting some of his favorite films and how they have parallels for all of what occurred, which feels like light fluff compared to what should have been touched upon.

Morris and American Dharma do lack the necessary tough teeth to really saddle in and bite down into all the actions of Bannon that have led the fall of our democracy, but there is enough there that makes this both a curiously entertaining and interesting viewing.

Rating: 7.0/10