It’s safe to say that the then 92-year-old Molly Forbes is far from impressed when told that she reminds Donald Trump of his Scottish-born mother.
‘He mustn’t have treated her very well then,’ she harrumphs, close to the start of director Anthony Baxter’s new film, You’ve Been Trumped Too.
Molly speaks from experience: ten years ago, Trump’s workers cut off the then 86-year-old Molly’s water supply at her home in her native Aberdeenshire while building a luxury golf course in the area.
It left the grandmother and former wartime land girl reliant on hauling water in buckets from nearby streams - and when that went dry, on bottled water delivered by relatives. On more than one occasion she was left without central heating in the depths of winter.
Molly Forbes was forced to haul water from nearby streams after Trump’s workers cut off the then 86-year-old Molly’s water supply at her home in her native Aberdeenshire
Her plight was captured by filmmaker Anthony Baxter in his 2011 film You’ve Been Trumped, which chronicled the struggle of local residents who opposed the proposed building of a huge coastal golf resort – and leading to what environmentalists claim was the destruction of ancient sand dunes alongside many residents homes - at the Menie Estate, near the village of Balmedie, eight miles north of Aberdeen..
Despite attempts by Trump and his lawyers to block the release of the film on the grounds of ‘defamation’ it was ultimately broadcast in 2012 on BBC2 - Trump threatened to sue them too – and watched by over 1.2 million viewers. It went on to win a dozen international awards.
By then, Baxter knew that, as he puts it, ‘this wasn’t a story that was going to go away’.
He was right: despite repeated promises, the Trump Organisation failed to restore Molly’s water supply, while other residents who opposed Trump’s golf course found a huge wall built on the border of his course blocked their sea view.
And so when, in June 2015, the then businessman declared his bid for the presidency, Baxter decided to make a sequel to be released in the run-up to the 2016 election.
Documentary film maker Anthony Baxter
It was, he insists, never meant to be a political film, one that merely focused his lens once more on the consequences of Trump’s ambitious plans and his organisation’s treatment of the people who lived near or by them.
Nonetheless, Baxter knew he was courting trouble: in 2010 he and his producer had already been briefly arrested and thrown in jail by Scottish police for breaching the peace after asking Balmedie residents questions about their building problems.
‘My producer and I were both thrown in jail simply for asking why the Forbes’ water supply had been cut off,’ he recalls.
After a public outcry\ the charge was dropped and Grampain police issued an apology stating that the two officers who arrested Baxter and Richard Phinney ‘ could have interacted more effectively with both you and your colleague.’
Yet he admits even he could he not have foreseen that, having taken up his documentary camera again, it would take a near five-year battle to get his sequel released: only now, a half decade after it was filmed – a half decade of exhausting legal threats and desperate attempts to crowdfund enough money to find insurance - can You’ve Been Trumped Too finally be seen worldwide.
‘When the film came out, the Trump Organisation threatened any cinema in the US who showed it, meaning that the distributor then pulled out,’ says Baxter. ‘That meant we weren’t able to get the insurance we needed - our quotes were sky high. It’s been a long haul.’
Finally, however, UK based film distribution company Journeyman Pictures has agreed to release the film worldwide – and while the footage may be nearly five years old, it remains a potent portrayal of an ongoing David and Goliath battle that captured the imagination of the world.
‘The local residents didn’t ask for this - they were just ordinary people going about their lives,’ says Baxter.
‘They weren’t environmentalists, they just cared for their community, and about these priceless dunes being bulldozed for a golf course on the back of promises they felt in their heart were unrealistic and bogus.
'And they were right. The numbers don’t stack up and the promises made by Trump turned out to be so far from the truth.’
Those promises were certainly headline-grabbing: in his planning application for the land he purchased in 2005 Trump claimed his two eighteen-hole golf courses - alongside a large luxury hotel, 500 private houses and about 1000 holiday homes – would create more than 6,000 jobs and bring £1 billion investment to Aberdeenshire.
He was, he insisted, emotionally invested in the area courtesy of his Hebridean born mother.
‘She was a tremendous woman and she loved Scotland and I think she would be very proud of what I’ve done, and I think she’d be very proud of what I’m doing,’ he later told the cameras.
Yet by early 2016 few of those promises had materialised: fewer than a hundred people were on the Trump Organisation’s payroll in the area – and five years after her water supply was cut off Molly Forbes was still without a safe and reliable water supply.
Donald Trump with documentary film maker Anthony Baxter in 2016
This time round though Trump was now running for president – allowing Baxter the opportunity to contrast footage of the billionaire against a backdrop of glitzy rallies and conventions on his race to the White House with shots of the stunning Aberdeenshire countryside and the elderly but redoubtable Forbes in her purple cardigan, tending her vegetables and quietly gathering water from her local stream.
There’s other footage too, which unapologetically plays on the viewer’s sympathies: while Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr is shown trophy hunting leopards and elephants, we see photographs of the young Molly brushing horses’ tails as a land army girl in Scotland during the Second World War.
Yet at first Baxter was also granted a degree of access to the heart of Trump Organisation, denied to him when he made his first documentary, during which he was branded by Trump as ‘not a real journalist.’
‘When I made my first film none of the Trumps would speak to me but when my filmwas shown on television that suddenly changed,’ Baxter recalls.
‘I mentioned to a reporter I was going to do a follow up and that was when, having completely ignored my previous requests, his then lawyer called, and I was invited to do an interview first with DT Junior and then with Trump himself at Trump Tower.’
Tellingly, it is mostly the set-up to the interview, rather than the interview itself, which Baxter chooses to show: Trump fiddling with his cuff links, checking he has the best clip-on microphone and asking which camera is the main one focusing on him.
‘He’s perfectly charming when he walks into the room but as you see from press conferences in the White House he’s only charming when he’s asked questions he likes - any questions that anger him or if you challenge him on the facts he immediately turned,’ Baxter recalls.
And for all the undoubtedly emotional manipulation of the viewer’s loyalties, Baxter emphasises that it is the facts that remain the focus of the documentary.
That, five years after the pipe supplying water to Molly Forbes house was broken, and against a backdrop of empty promises from Trump International, it took Molly’s son Michael - earlier branded by Trump as an animal who ‘lived like a pig’ for his own efforts to hold his organisation to account on behalf of his mother – to personally restore her water supply.
Taking the matter into his own hands, and risking arrest, he digs up the broken pipe, which he finds clogged with stones and riddled with holes allowing sludge from the road to contaminate the water supply and repairs it.
He immediately receives a letter from the Trump organisation accusing him of ‘hostile communications’.
‘Of course, the Trump Organisation claimed they already had sorted the water supply – the chief greenkeeper said it was going to be the best water system they ever had – but it’s just not true,’ says Baxter now.
‘For years the Forbes struggled and if anyone dared raise it or report on it the Trump Organisation threatened to sue, even though it was the case that that was the truth of what they were going through.
‘Nothing they say will change the facts and it’s deeply disturbing she had to live in that situation for so long where it was indeed a simple thing to rectify. It’s astonishing how they have coped - they’re an inspiring example of resilience and determination.’
In 2016 when news of this film was made public a spokeswoman for the Trump Organisation said this: ‘Five years ago, an unknown, underground clay pipe was unintentionally disrupted by our lead contractor and was repaired immediately.
'The neighbour who shares the well with Forbes can attest that his water supply was only temporary affected and rectified fully within a few days. Over the years, Forbes has personally dug up his well, dislodged and broken pipes and subsequently blamed the company.
'Last year, in an effort to be neighbourly and whilst we were under no obligation to do so, we offered to connect both properties to our mains water system.
Donald Trump is the subject of a new documentary which explores his ambitious plans for a gold resort in Aberdeenshire and the ongoing battle with local residents
'Due to Forbes’ unreasonable behaviour and unwillingness to take responsibility for the ongoing servicing of their well, Forbes’ neighbour opted to be connected to our mains water. Mr and Mrs Forbes rejected our offer to be connected to mains water.’
Baxter says the Trump Organisation did offer to connect them to the mains supply and Molly Forbes and Michael rejected this because they would then have to pay water rates, they liked their well water as it was and they didn’t trust them.
The film also shows what happened to fellow Balmedie resident Rohan Beyts – a retired social worker who had never obtained as much as a speeding ticket in her life - who received a visit from local police after taking part in a protest march against Trump’s development.
On camera she recalls the feeling of panic at the sight of the two uniformed officers on her doorstep. ‘I thought something had happened to one of my children,’ she recalls. ‘I started to shake and said “What is it, what’s happened?”’.
She was promptly charged with urinating in the sand dunes and told that the police could charge her straightaway as they ‘had enough evidence’.
‘I was not on the fairway at all, I was within the dune system closest to the shoreline. As I walked back an estate vehicle out of the passenger side jumped and out came a man with a camera. It struck me as such a ridiculous thing,’ she says.
Scottish prosecutors subsequently dropped all charges, but Baxter points out that the episode seems apparently small on paper it feels wholly significant.
’I always felt what was happening in Aberdeenshire was an example on a local level of the way things can play out on a global stage,’ he says.
‘What was particularly chilling about Rohan’s story is that when my first film was broadcast, I thought the fact that us filmmakers had been arrested had been made public meant that sort of thing wouldn’t happen again.
'But it did. It’s shocking, in the same way that Trump treated the Forbes family over the years was deeply shocking.’
Today Molly, now 96, lives in a care home, her domestic worries now a thing of the past.
Yet the threat to the landscape she loves remains ongoing: as the film declares in a closing statement at the end Scottish officials have not ruled out the use of eminent domain, or compulsory purchase orders, in the area in future.
In the film’s closing credits, meanwhile, a statement from The Trump Organisation declares that Anthony Baxter is ‘not a credible journalist or filmmaker’ who ‘has propagated lies and nonsense.’
It is a right of reply to which they are of course entitled, and to which Baxter has his own retort. ‘As a reporter all you can try and do is get to the truth – The Trump Organisation may not like it,’ he says. ‘But the truth is the truth.’