Trump, Putin, Zombies and Tom Hanks — all in one film at Berlinale

Trailer for “Hello Dankness” which is screening at the Berlinale film festival

Tom Hanks has a starring role in the movie “Hello Dankness” in which zombies stalk America after Donald Trump is elected president.

Bill Gates is shown running a secret laboratory to create deadly Covid vaccines while the Phantom of the Opera has a poster of Vladimir Putin above his organ and a copy of the infamous Trump “pee pee” videotape on a nearby shelf.

The film, which played to packed audiences at the Berlinale film festival this week, is, however, not one Hanks would recall making.

His appearance comes courtesy of the Australian sister duo Dominique and Dan Angeloro, who call themselves Soda Jerk. Their stock in trade is sampling Hollywood films, television news clips and audio and jumbling it into a new narrative — but without paying for the rights.

For this film, which portrays an America in the throes of an apocalypse brought on by Trump’s surprise election, followed by the unexpected onslaught of the Covid pandemic, the sisters said on Friday at a screening that they had taken snippets from 315 films and used some 200 audio clips.

“Yeah, you do have to pay for the films,” Dominique said in response to a question after the screening. “We worked in this way for 20 years. Our work has really emerged from our interest in free culture.”

So that’s all right, then, but it means Soda Jerk’s films are not coming to a multiplex or streaming service near you anytime soon.

Which is a shame because you will miss Hanks waking up one morning, sipping his glass of OJ as he did in the 1989 American black comedy “The ‘Burbs”, only this time when he walks out his front door we see a Bernie Sanders for president sign on his front lawn. A minute later Annette Bening drives down the street, as she did in “American Beauty” from 1999, but her house sports a banner proclaiming her support for Hillary Clinton.

Across the street from Hanks, the Bruce Dern character from “The ‘Burbs” is, of course, a Trump supporter. When Hanks tries to be a good neighbour and knocks on the door to say hello, a hole near the front door opens up and releases a swarm of bees (or possibly wasps), which is only a prelude to how bad things are going to get.

Suffice to say that on election night the air goes out of a Hillary Clinton celebration party when Trump wins and the neighbourhood is suddenly aflame, hit by an earthquake and swarming with zombies.

Part of the soundtrack for this is provided by Herbert Lom, who starred in the 1962 version of “The Phantom of the Opera”, banging away at the organ. The scene has been updated to add the Putin poster and a bookcase containing the tape Putin is fabled to have made of prostitutes hired by Trump to pee on a hotel bed in Moscow in which President Barack Obama once slept.

Fast-forwarding, we come to a memory freshener, if one were needed, that Trump said during the Covid epidemic that it might be worthwhile to look into injecting bleach as a way to beat Covid. There he is, saying it on television.

What some viewers may not know, but Soda Jerk is able to show through film sampling, is that Bill Gates had a Microsoft “death machine” underground laboratory which was making Covid vaccines that were indeed lethal. You can see a simulation of how many people the vaccine would kill with your own eyes.

And that is the point that Soda Jerk is making in this riotous, 70-minute-long romp through American history of the past five or six years.

“We sort of see 2016 as this threshold or this sort of turning point,” Don said. “The movement built up for so long that it sort of clicked over buttons into a new kind of experience…the image world, the digital world have sort of collapsed into reality.”

By Michael Roddy

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