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Filmmakers of ‘Active Measures’ Documentary Assert Donald Trump Has Been Putin’s Puppet for Decades

Addie Morfoot

Addie’s Most Recent Stories

Watching Jack Bryan’s explosive documentary “Active Measures,” about Russia’s espionage program and the effect it had on the 2016 U.S. presidential election, could be likened to watching a 21st century version of Watergate.

The film, debuting at Hot Docs film festival in Toronto Monday, features archival footage and a bevy of interviews with key Washington figures including former CIA director James Woolsey, former United States Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, former F.B.I. special agent Clint Watts, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Via these interviews “Active Measures” constructs a powerful argument as to how Soviet modern warfare tactics – “active measures” — shifted the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and weakened Western democracy. The film also meticulously documents Trump’s problematic financial relationship with the Russian oligarchy that began decades ago.

“Russians have a particular type of mark who they go after,” explains one of the film’s interview subjects, senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “They go after somebody who has business resources, perhaps some shady morals so they are amenable to bribery or perhaps are in a difficult financial situation and (someone who) has political connections or aspirations. I’ve just described Donald Trump. He was the perfect mark for the Russians.”

Film Review: ‘Active Measures’

Trump-Putin Documentary ‘Active Measures’ Sets August Release

Talking heads also point to New York’s Trump Tower as a “money laundering paradise” full of shell companies. Watts says that by Russia using cheaper tactics than traditional warfare – i.e. — propaganda, media manipulation and funding extremist groups – they were able to divide the U.S. in 2016. “By dividing a nation we can’t protect ourselves from threats within or without,” says Watts.

While Bryan as well as the docu’s producers, Marley Clements and Laura DuBois, are looking forward to the film’s HotDocs premiere, they are also aware that the movie’s subject matter could lead to personal safety issues, which is why the trio has hired a security team and are “watching what they drink.”

Why did you decide to make this film?

Bryan: This story is too big for one news article. So I really felt that people needed a (film) where they could sit down, watch from beginning to end and realize that this documentary is not about how evil Trump is. No. This was an operation. (Trump) had a problem with in his life and guys (from Russia) came in and solved it for him.” (Bryan is referring to Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1991.)

When did you start filming?

Bryan: We started the day after James Comey was fired in May 2017 until September 2017.

How did you fund the film?

DuBois: All of the money came from friends and family. We were really lucky that we had people who supported us and believed in what we were doing.

There is a lot of information packed into this documentary. Did you ever consider making it into a series?

Clements: Constantly. But when we finally decided to make it into a traditional feature doc we thought that maybe we can use cut scenes or stories for a future series or spinoff because there are so many parts of this that we really didn’t get to go into.

You interviewed a lot of key Washington figures including Hillary Clinton and John McCain. How did you convince them take part in the film?

Clements: We made sure to get as many diplomats and academics in the fold as we could to start out with because it felt to us when we made these bigger asks, like Hillary and John, they would feel much more comfortable that the people that they were in the trenches with were backing them up. It wasn’t just them going in by themselves.

What surprised you the most while making this film?

Byran: On the Trump side it was how far back (his relationship with Russia) went. On the Putin side, I was surprised at how broad the operation in 2016 was.

Did you reach out to Trump for an interview?

Bryan: No, but it was a serious point of consideration. But in the end we really didn’t want anybody on (his team) knowing what we were doing. We were a little nervous. Early on we had some threatening phone calls. So we decided to not tell anyone that we didn’t have to tell. Also to have someone (in the film) who I thought was going to lie and then go back and explain why he lied felt like a waste time.

What are you hoping audiences will take away from the film?

Bryan: My goal is to put it out there and really have people understand what happened. I hope that if people understand what happened they will use that to empower themselves and their decision-making. I also hope that there will be a lower tolerance for corruption and election meddling. In the long run I absolutely hope that we keep Vladimir Putin in check not just for what he’s doing to America and to Europe, but also what he’s doing to the Russian people.

Are you scared to release the film?

Bryan: We’re nervous but you kind of have to get past that very quickly. Listen, is it possible that a Russian mobster or Vladimir Putin will take offense and kill me? I guess it’s possible but it’s also unlikely. If it does happen though there are a whole lot worse things to die for.

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Film Review: ‘Active Measures’

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Active Measures (2018)

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Critic Reviews for Active Measures

Active Measures is an assault on the eyes, the ears, the mind.

“Active Measures” names the names and fills in the flowchart of Trump’s corruption with gripping authority.

Riveting and authoritative.

Well researched and truly frightening.

You’ll have to suspend disbelief. Of course it’s not possible that our President would criticize Canada’s Justin Trudeau while sanctifying Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

Proceed with caution in this disclaimer-free Dem infomercial in doc sheep’s clothing. And one-side-to-every-story carnival barker spree – the best line from a smirking talking head asked for proof: Everything I know that’s interesting, I can’t tell you.

Bryan’s done some good and noble work. But until investigative committees provide him with the final act of this story, the rest of us will just have to hold out for the pee tape.

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Active Measures

Original Air Date: Mar 11, 2018

Carrie puts a plan in motion. Saul visits a source. Keane makes a desperate plea.

No airings currently scheduled

Available Aug 29

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“As Carrie Mathison gets the wheels spinning during her investigation into Simone Martin . the season’s big theme is starting to coalesce nicely.”

“Keeping the lid on this volatile situation is President Keane’s primary objective during this hour. the creative team appears invested in making her a three-dimensional character with genuine leadership potential. (Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the episode is both written and directed by women, Debora Cahn and Charlotte Sieling, respectively.)”

7 Seasons, 84 Episodes

After the attempted assassination of the president, Carrie Mathison is out of the White House while 200 members of the intelligence community are imprisoned. Now Carrie must prove that not all conspiracies are theories.

Carrie Mathison is back in the US on the streets of New York, fighting for the protection of civil liberties and against the abuse of power within our government. She remains in opposition with Saul, who is still with the CIA.

Out of the CIA and living in Berlin, Carrie is trying to start a new life but realizes now she’s the one with a target on her back. One thing quickly becomes clear: she’s never been at greater risk or with more to lose.


Carrie’s CIA career takes off when she becomes an overseas station chief, but but every drone strike and tactical raid comes at a cost and she quickly learns the true price of power. Saul fights to stay in the intelligence game.

Carrie goes to extraordinary lengths to solve the latest crisis at the CIA; Brody struggles to survive; Saul must play many opposing sides to keep his job at the CIA.

Carrie continues her hunt for Abu Nazir while maintaining a complicated personal/professional relationship with Brody; Brody is forced to work more closely with the CIA; Saul discovers a clandestine plot.

Carrie investigates and ultimately becomes obsessed with returned POW marine Nicholas Brody, who may or may not be an al-Qaeda-trained terrorist; Brody struggles to resume his life with his wife and children whom he barely knows.

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Review: ‘Active Measures’

Hot Docs 2018

By Maurie Alioff • Published May 2nd, 2018Comments


Active Measures ( USA , 112 minutes)
Dir: Jack Bryan
Programme: Special Presentations. (World Premiere)

Active Measures is so loaded with information that Jack Bryan and his producers considered telling the story in a series. Watching this film back-to-back with Our New President, another Trump and Putin horror show screening at Hot Docs 2018, could bring on fear and loathing that even Hunter Thompson might have had trouble handling.

The liberal media speculates about how deep Donald Trump’s corruption goes, and the suspicious nature of his relationship with Vladimir Putin. Why is he so reluctant to censure the Russian President’s dictatorial rule of his country and undermining of fragile democratic institutions elsewhere? We are used to a lot of “allegedly,” and “probably,” and “as yet unproven” in the reportage.

Active Measures, on the other hand, goes straight to the jugular. The film marshals a bombardment of headlines, archival footage, and talking heads (Hillary Clinton, John McCain, various former ambassadors, CIA agents, journalists among them) to present its case. Clinton’s presence makes me a little uneasy, but Bryan’s presentation is forceful and convincing. The doc relentlessly enumerates places and people, calling out the Russian oligarchs and gangsters by name.

The film’s premise is that Russia with its relatively weak military must engage in political warfare to expand its power base. It deploys fake news and other attack modes and incites both the left and the right to divide and undermine other governments.

The film recounts the stories of Russian destabilization in the Ukraine, Estonia, and Georgia. Pro western leaders and political candidates got taken down in one way or another. Paul Manafort, who happens to be a Trump ally, aided and abetted in the Ukraine where anti-Russian political leader Yulia Volodymyrivna Tymoshenko got locked up. Sound familiar? Trump’s vow to imprison, not merely defeat a rival, is one of many ways he seems to be following Putin’s Playbook.

One of the participants in the doc says that the top prize for the Russians out to subvert a country is having an asset on the inside. Bryan quotes ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele’s allegation that the Russians turned Donald Trump long ago. According to the film, he was pressured to run for president as far back as 1999 because he was the perfect mark, a personality type whose insecurities could be manipulated.

The film backs up this “useful idiot” storyline with gales of information about Trump’s financial vulnerabilities and desperate need for a Russian cash lifeline, which came from shady people who needed to launder their money. One of the film’s biggest shockers is its statement that Trump Tower in News York has been “a paradise for money-laundering.” To clean up your dough, you bought a condo from The Donald. The film provides details on how certain schemes worked.

Brian’s film is a lengthy assemblage of volatile information, building a consolidation of the case against Trump and Putin we’ve been hearing about since the presidential election and inauguration. It has a force that is nightmarish: not only is the most powerful man in the world a criminal who ran his operation out of a 5th Avenue high rise, he is the puppet of a tyrant, The Kremlin Candidate.

Active Measures screens:
-Wed, May 2 at 3:45 PM at TIFF Lightbox
-Fri, May 4 at 6:15 PM at TIFF Lightbox

Hot Docs runs April 26 to May 6. Please visit hotdocs.ca for more info.

Visit the POV Hot Docs Hub for more coverage from this year’s festival!

Maurie Alioff writes about movies for publications off- and on-line, and is a screenwriter currently collaborating on a documentary featuring Bob Marley’s granddaughter while researching other Jamaica-related projects, including a magical-realist crime story drawing on stories he hears on the island. He has written for radio, journals and TV, taught screenwriting and been a contributing editor to various magazines.

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Also of Interest

Review: ‘Our New President’

Review: ‘On Putin’s Blacklist’

Marching Orders: Jean-François Caissy’s ‘First Stripes’

‘Time for Ilhan’ Holds Top Spot in Hot Docs Audience Award Race

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Active Measures Trailer (2018)

Trailer for Active Measures.

Possibly one of the largest espionage operations in history played out as the world watched Donald Trump’s US presidential campaign and his ultimately foreseeable election into office. In this long-awaited political documentary, director Jack Bryan, through expert testimony and archival footage, skillfully constructs a powerful argument as to how Soviet modern warfare tactics shifted the 2016 US presidential elections. Tracing back to the 1970s and events in Ukraine, Georgia and Estonia, the film sets the stage for what is to come: scandal, corruption, blackmail, bankruptcy and money laundering, fueled by the Russian Mafia and corrupt political figures who greedily manipulate US politics and mass social media in their unrelenting lust for power. Featuring interviews with Hillary Clinton, John McCain, James Woolsey, Michael McFaul and more, Active Measures links the concurrent rise to power of two men: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Duration
0 min 47 sec

Posted On
April 15, 2018

Director
Jack Bryan

Writer
Unknown or Not Available

Release
April 6, 2018

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Film Review: ‘Active Measures’

Started by Ulquiorra , Saturday at 03:33 AM

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Filmmakers of ‘Active Measures’ Documentary Assert Donald Trump Has Been Putin’s Puppet for Decades

Addie Morfoot

Addie’s Most Recent Stories

Watching Jack Bryan’s explosive documentary “Active Measures,” about Russia’s espionage program and the effect it had on the 2016 U.S. presidential election, could be likened to watching a 21st century version of Watergate.

The film, debuting at Hot Docs film festival in Toronto Monday, features archival footage and a bevy of interviews with key Washington figures including former CIA director James Woolsey, former United States Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, former F.B.I. special agent Clint Watts, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Via these interviews “Active Measures” constructs a powerful argument as to how Soviet modern warfare tactics – “active measures” — shifted the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and weakened Western democracy. The film also meticulously documents Trump’s problematic financial relationship with the Russian oligarchy that began decades ago.

“Russians have a particular type of mark who they go after,” explains one of the film’s interview subjects, senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “They go after somebody who has business resources, perhaps some shady morals so they are amenable to bribery or perhaps are in a difficult financial situation and (someone who) has political connections or aspirations. I’ve just described Donald Trump. He was the perfect mark for the Russians.”

Film Review: ‘Active Measures’

Trump-Putin Documentary ‘Active Measures’ Sets August Release

Talking heads also point to New York’s Trump Tower as a “money laundering paradise” full of shell companies. Watts says that by Russia using cheaper tactics than traditional warfare – i.e. — propaganda, media manipulation and funding extremist groups – they were able to divide the U.S. in 2016. “By dividing a nation we can’t protect ourselves from threats within or without,” says Watts.

While Bryan as well as the docu’s producers, Marley Clements and Laura DuBois, are looking forward to the film’s HotDocs premiere, they are also aware that the movie’s subject matter could lead to personal safety issues, which is why the trio has hired a security team and are “watching what they drink.”

Why did you decide to make this film?

Bryan: This story is too big for one news article. So I really felt that people needed a (film) where they could sit down, watch from beginning to end and realize that this documentary is not about how evil Trump is. No. This was an operation. (Trump) had a problem with in his life and guys (from Russia) came in and solved it for him.” (Bryan is referring to Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1991.)

When did you start filming?

Bryan: We started the day after James Comey was fired in May 2017 until September 2017.

How did you fund the film?

DuBois: All of the money came from friends and family. We were really lucky that we had people who supported us and believed in what we were doing.

There is a lot of information packed into this documentary. Did you ever consider making it into a series?

Clements: Constantly. But when we finally decided to make it into a traditional feature doc we thought that maybe we can use cut scenes or stories for a future series or spinoff because there are so many parts of this that we really didn’t get to go into.

You interviewed a lot of key Washington figures including Hillary Clinton and John McCain. How did you convince them take part in the film?

Clements: We made sure to get as many diplomats and academics in the fold as we could to start out with because it felt to us when we made these bigger asks, like Hillary and John, they would feel much more comfortable that the people that they were in the trenches with were backing them up. It wasn’t just them going in by themselves.

What surprised you the most while making this film?

Byran: On the Trump side it was how far back (his relationship with Russia) went. On the Putin side, I was surprised at how broad the operation in 2016 was.

Did you reach out to Trump for an interview?

Bryan: No, but it was a serious point of consideration. But in the end we really didn’t want anybody on (his team) knowing what we were doing. We were a little nervous. Early on we had some threatening phone calls. So we decided to not tell anyone that we didn’t have to tell. Also to have someone (in the film) who I thought was going to lie and then go back and explain why he lied felt like a waste time.

What are you hoping audiences will take away from the film?

Bryan: My goal is to put it out there and really have people understand what happened. I hope that if people understand what happened they will use that to empower themselves and their decision-making. I also hope that there will be a lower tolerance for corruption and election meddling. In the long run I absolutely hope that we keep Vladimir Putin in check not just for what he’s doing to America and to Europe, but also what he’s doing to the Russian people.

Are you scared to release the film?

Bryan: We’re nervous but you kind of have to get past that very quickly. Listen, is it possible that a Russian mobster or Vladimir Putin will take offense and kill me? I guess it’s possible but it’s also unlikely. If it does happen though there are a whole lot worse things to die for.

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Hot Docs 2018 Trailers: ACTIVE MEASURES


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