Ellen Lande
Film director and critic.

TRUMP’S USA: Fear as entertainment is a well-used bestseller and a Hollywood brand, although we do not often see fear as entertainment in political films that are socially critical

Jay Rosenblatt confesses that the anxiety and fear he experiences in Trump’s USA is of such a degree that he either had to see a therapist or make a movie. The outcome is Scared Very Scared, a 7-minute long short film to premiere during th 60th anniversary of the Leipzig Documentary Film Festival in conjuction with Jay Rosenblatt’s Retrospective Homage.

Double dose

The filmmaker Rosenblatt can’t stop himself. He is looking for archival material until he finds his mildly camouflaged alter ego in an older educational film – an indignant psychiatrist with a Jewish appearance who provides advice on patient management. This chosen frame around the story points directly at himself. Besides the more famous descriptions as a “provocateur” and “film artist”, Rosenblatt himself is a psychiatrist. Placed into context, the choice of position as a medical expert gives us a pointer to the key interpretation. This perspective gives a completely different sublime quality and an alluring space for reflection than similar films that deal with Trump’s America.

America as mistreated patient

Dr. Rosenblatt is fond of metaphors. He leaves little doubt about who the patient represents – vulnerable anxious women and little boys who are bullied or do not dare to speak. A big and strong boy is holding a weak boy down by his throat. The little one: “I’ll do anything!” The bully loosens the grip with the famous words: “You’re on my side!”

Back to the expert who is constantly commenting on how incorrectly the patient is being treated by the well-meaning smooth doctor. At the same time, Rosenblatt takes his time to subtly build up the film. The doctor’s advice is to learn to relax more. According to the educational film, this is useless help – change of personality is impossible. The function of pain is to warn us of that which can damage us before the scale of it becomes too serious. The statement is illustrated with pebbles being taken out of a shoe. The patient is at breaking point, and all she wants is help to return to her former energetic self.

Worst-case scenario as dramaturgy

Marching, flag-carrying, Trump saluting Americans are juxtaposed with recordings of Hitler’s young Nazis before World War II. Just before, Nixon has leaned towards the microphone and jovially revealed that an accused politician ignores or denies everything to make sure he avoids being arrested. Reagan is taken under oath to a cheering mass of people; to a cut of a commentator who says that there are no limits to what a man with such a capacity can accomplish. The Ku Klux Klan are marching too. The children among them are the main focus. Even I haven’t seen footage of children in Ku Klux Klan before. I feel disturbed. The narrator’s voice lectures and pulls me along: “America was built on a gun.”

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