Six months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, director James Stern began touring the red states of America to understand the support behind Donald Trump. This turned into his new documentary, American Chaos, which gives us a glimpse into the nature of our politically divisive times.
A self-professed “political junkie”, James D. Stern is a film producer and sometime director, involved with movies as varied as Looper and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. His previous documentaries focused on sports (Linsanity, Michael Jordan to the Max) and politics (… So Goes the Nation).
Believing that “people in blue states don’t understand people in red states,” Stern embarked on a journey to bridge that gap.
His film crew traveled from Florida to Arizona, West Virginia to the 2016 GOP Convention in Cleveland, putting Trump backers on camera and primarily listening to them without judgment.
As the movie trailer pointed out, the major themes from Trump’s campaign that resonated with his supporters were immigration, security, gun control and jobs.
The documentary features various interviews from an Arizona rancher to direct descendants of the Hatfields and McCoys to an out-of-work West Virginia coal miner who wanted Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton executed for treason.
Often, the interviewees cite Clinton’s alleged immorality as a leading cause for their distrust of her. Others deem the allegations against Trump’s character as simply unfounded.
Many supporters say that they felt seen and heard at last by Trump’s campaign, employing the now-familiar sentiment that he “says things that a lot of Americans think.”
Stern also employs some commentary from academic experts to weigh in on the psychology behind these supporters, and seems to express his own bent, pondering if Trump’s voters believe that their current president is pushing us “to the brink”.
The documentary also comments on a seeming desire for many of interviewees “to go back in time,” to the pre-integration, coal consuming, pre-immigration flood, binge-buying 1950s.
American Chaos premieres in theaters September 14.