Back in September, I interviewed Steve Bannon in his (at least) $1,400 a night palatial hotel suite at the five-star Gritti Palace in Venice, Italy.
The far-right “populist” firebrand—a former Goldman Sachs banker, Hollywood producer, Breitbart chief, and senior adviser to Donald Trump—was ostensibly in the sinking city for the world premiere of American Dharma, a documentary on him by legendary filmmaker Errol Morris. But really, Bannon, who skipped out on that film’s premiere, was there to do what he loves most: press.
Upon entering his suite, I noticed a woman crouched in the corner behind a movie camera. “They’re shooting something on me,” Bannon said, motioning to the mystery lady. When she asked if she could film our interview, I politely declined.
Unbeknownst to me, that woman was documentary filmmaker Alison Klayman (Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry), who was in the midst of trailing Bannon for a number of months for a feature-length documentary, The Brink, which just debuted at the Sundance Film Festival—and will be released in theaters on March 29 by Magnolia Pictures.
In Klayman’s vérité film, Bannon admits that he “hated every second” he was in the Trump White House, where he served as the president’s consigliere, though claimed he was “doing the Lord’s work.”
But that’s not all. In the opening minutes, Bannon praises the architecture of the Birkenau concentration camp—a scene that’s mirrored later on when, while discussing what he calls his “propaganda” film about Trump, Trump @ War, Bannon asks, “What would Leni Riefenstahl do? How would Leni cut that scene?”
There are other startling confessions as well, including one scene wherein Bannon, while meeting with a group of far-right nationalist politicians from Europe, boasts, “We do actually control the government,” and another point where Bannon takes credit for Trump’s presidential win.
“If I had not come on as CEO of the campaign, Donald Trump would not have won,” Bannon says, looking straight into the camera. “He’ll tell you that too.”
Klayman’s doc does a decent job of capturing the glaring contradictions of Bannon—namely, that he preaches “populism” and poses as a voice for the working class while flying around the world in private jets and staying in five-star hotels. At one point toward the end of the film, Bannon is quizzed about the nature of his and Trump’s relationship; after all, Trump has come to calling him “Sloppy Steve.”
“A friend of Trump?” he offers. “No, never.”