While Donald Trump campaigns for president and deals with legal problems, his Mar-a-Lago resort will host a red-carpet movie premiere for a soon-to-release documentary from filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza and popular conservative radio host Dan Bongino.
D’Souza, often considered the conservative version of fellow documentarian Michael Moore given the success he has had with his films, will premiere his next, dubbed Police State, on November 1 at Trump’s landmark location in Florida that serves as his residence and as a private country club.
Police State features interviews with Rep. Jim Jordan, Sen. Rand Paul, and multiple alleged victims of government abuse to make the case that the U.S. is dangerously close to becoming a police state, typically defined as a totalitarian regime controlled by a political force.
The movie is especially critical of law-enforcement agencies like the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the Transportation Security Agency, all of which are supposed to be non-partisan though the film alleges they are often used as political tools, mostly by the left to bludgeon the right.
While Trump is hosting the movie at his home, there’s no guarantee he’ll be there given his tight schedule both as a presidential candidate and a man fending off four indictments involving alleged hush money payment, the storage of sensitive documents, alleged interference with the peaceful transfer of power and alleged election interference.
But if history is a guide, Trump will be there, just as he was in May 2022 when he hosted the premiere of 2000 Mules, D’Souza’s previous film about alleged irregularities during the 2020 election when Trump lost to President Joe Biden.
While the November 1 Mar-a-Lago event is the official red-carpet premiere, the movie will have already been available on October 23 and October 25 in about 900 theaters the filmmakers have bought out and are selling tickets to at $20 apiece. There’s also a virtual premiere scheduled for October 27 at PoliceStateFilm.net. Additionally, the $3 million film will stream at Rumble, EpochTV and SalemNow.
“It seems upside down, but it’s very effective,” said D’Souza, noting it’s similar to the distribution of 2000 Mules. “The influencers will want to see it at the Mar-a-Lago premiere, plausibly with Donald Trump.”
D’Souza, a former policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan, first made a name for himself as a filmmaker in 2012 with the movie, 2016: Obama’s America, which earned $33 million at the box office and became the second biggest political documentary in history, after Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.
While Police State will assuredly be catnip to conservatives who share D’Souza’s view that government overreach is a threat to Constitutional freedoms, it will likely be dismissed as conspiratorial by his detractors on the left who say he was discredited when he pled guilty in 2014 to using a “straw donor” to give more money than legally allowed to Wendy Long, a friend who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.
D’Souza acknowledges his transgression is often used by his critics as a way to discount his work, but he notes he paid his fines, went through counseling, and performed his community service before Trump pardoned him in 2018 on the grounds that he was “a victim of selective prosecution.”
“His movie will be preaching to the choir,” said Robert Shapiro, a professor of political science at Columbia University. “D’Souza’s past claims have had no obvious net effect, as far as I can tell. Just one voice in the MAGA/Trump crowd.”
But D’Souza counters that his movie should serve as a warning to all Americans. “Stalin and Mao didn’t just murder bourgeois capitalists; they also murdered many of their fellow socialists and Communists,” he said.
Indeed, the movie, which Newsweek has viewed, takes aim not only at the left but the right, blaming Republican President George W. Bush for opening the floodgates to government surveillance and overreach with the Patriot Act and creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
Police State already got a marketing boost from Elon Musk. According to D’Souza, the film’s trailer was viewed 3.5 million times but soared to 70 million after the billionaire founder of Tesla put a link on his X platform (formerly Twitter) along with the text: “The FBI needs a thorough reform.”
Asked for his opinion of the most impactful moment of the film, D’Souza points to his on-screen interview with Geri Perna who explains, through tears, that her nephew, Matt Perna, hung himself in his garage after a prosecutor accused him of terrorism.
Matt Perna, says his aunt, was a Bernie Sanders supporter who switched allegiance to Trump and spent 14 peaceful minutes in the Capitol Rotunda during the January 6 riots in 2021. He was set to plead guilty to obstruction and spend up to a year in prison, but he killed himself when a prosecutor informed him of a “terrorism enhancement” to the charges against him, according to Geri Perna.
The film largely relies on video, dashcams and interviews of arrestees and witnesses to alleged abuse by law enforcement, but sometimes uses recreations by actors, most prominently Nick Searcy, who plays a composite “FBI bad guy. He’s a symbol. His dialogue is lifted from modified FBI statements,” said D’Souza.
“You take on the intelligence community, and they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you,” says Democrat Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a TV clip used in the film.
The FBI issued a statement to Newsweek that read: “While we decline to comment on the movie, the FBI mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution. We investigate criminal activity that constitutes a federal crime and poses a threat to national security and are committed to upholding the constitutional rights of all Americans.”
The movie shows a pyramid of extremism allegedly created by a contractor for the DHS. The bottom wrung of the pyramid lists entities like Fox News, the Christian Broadcasting Network, the NRA, and the GOP itself. Up one wrung is Breitbart News, PragerU, and Turning Point USA, and above that are Nazis.
The pyramid was first reported in May after it was included as a footnote on a grant application submitted by the University of Dayton, and the DHS subsequently awarded the school $352,109 to explore domestic violence and hate movements. But the DHS said at the time that while the footnote referred to a seminar where the pyramid was used, the DHS had no part in funding, organizing or hosting that seminar.
D’Souza’s movie is also critical of COVID restrictions, the DHS and other entities for allegedly targeting pro-life activists and parents who complain about curriculum at school board meetings.
The DHS told Newsweek it would not comment on a film it hasn’t viewed.
The film features former air marshal Sonya LaBosco who says the TSA uses a database of people who were near the Capitol Building during the January 6 rioting and calls them potential terrorists. The database allegedly contains names of grandmothers, wounded U.S. war veterans and even some people who were in the area for a job interview, and the air marshal’s former colleagues are “disgusted” by the database, she claims.
The TSA told Newsweek it would not comment on the “sensitive nature of the information” it uses to determine threats.
The movie shows Trump telling a crowd near the Washington Monument on January 6, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol Building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” then D’Souza interviews Joseph Bolanos, an elderly Hispanic man who never entered the Capitol that day.
“There were no barriers, no police, no signage,” says Bolanos. When he saw people climbing walls, he retreated, and later showed people the video he took that day. He said a joint task force later entered his mother’s home, where he was sleeping on the couch at 6:30 a..m., aimed a rifle at his head and arrested him.
Bolanos said he panicked when he saw an NBC News crew filming his arrest, and four hours later he suffered a stroke. “The emotional stress is indescribable,” he says while sobbing. “I’m an American citizen. I had no reason to be attacked.”
D’Souza told Newsweek his original idea was to make a film entirely about January 6, until he learned other movies on that topic were in the works, including one from Searcy, who was there that day. Searcy’s film, dubbed Capitol Punishment, was released in 2021, thus D’Souza switched gears to Police State and widened its scope.
“Mass surveillance, censorship, political indoctrination in schools, media propaganda, political prisoners. Every one of those in one form or another can be found in the U.S.,” D’Souza said. “I grant that there are some things you see in a police state that you don’t see here. For example, I’m a critic and a rebel, but I’m free to leave the country.”