CANNES, FRANCE — While the likes of Steven Spielberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Gosling and Adam Driver came and went on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival this week, a slew of movies were screening in the festival's teeming market section in the hopes of being picked up by foreign distributors.
One of them was the documentary "Clinton Cash," Peter Schweizer's adaptation of his 2015 book of the same name, in which he alleged that foreign interests involving Bill and Hillary Clinton's family foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative and the former president's speaking engagements influenced Hillary Clinton's policy decisions at the State Department.
As in the book, there's no hard evidence or smoking guns in the hour-long film, which screened here for buyers on Monday morning. Instead of proof of quid pro quo deals, Schweizer, a longtime Clinton critic, presents a series of dots that he leaves for viewers to connect with the help of menacing music cues and lurid, blood-splashed graphics. The bottom line: By donating to the Clintons' foundations or ponying up large speaking fees for the former president, foreign political and corporate powers were able to skew policies in their favor while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.
"We want to spread awareness about corruption," Schweizer explained at the Majestic Hotel later that day. "Obviously, the film is specifically about the Clintons, but the important thing I try to emphasize is it's really about … a new model that I think they have perfected and developed, which is creating this apparatus which allows foreign money to influence American political figures."
The book "Clinton Cash" was published just as Hillary Clinton announced her presidential candidacy, timing that Schweizer insists was a coincidence; but there's no doubt that the movie is being rolled out with the goal of influencing the November election – specifically targeting progressive voters who will potentially be turned off by the State Department's support for the Keystone XL pipeline (a position Schweizer chalks up to an Bill Clinton accepting speaking fees from an investor in the project) and a series of implications involving unsavory activities in Haiti, Nigeria, the South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"Yes, we are zeroing in on people who are concerned on these issues," Schweizer admitted. "I mean look, if there's a conservative out there who's disliked the Clintons for 20 years and they want to come see the film, that's great. If it's a swing voter, that's great. If it's a Bernie Sanders progressive, great. My belief is it will appeal to all of them."
Soon, Schweizer and his producer, Stephen K. Bannon – best known as the executive chairman of Breitbart News and for his 2011 pro-Sarah Palin documentary "Undefeated" – will see if that's true: a TV deal is being negotiated to air "Clinton Cash" on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in July. As far as European sales, there have been nibbles but no bites yet from Poland, Italy and the United Kingdom.
And if Schweizer's strategy works? If he manages to succeed in splitting the Democratic vote enough to keep Clinton out of the White House, will he subject President Trump to similarly aggressive scrutiny?
"If Trump were to win, he ought to be investigated," Schweizer said, insisting he's not "a Trumpista, or whatever they're called. But he ought to be looked at – who his financial partners are, who is business partners are, are favors being done for those individuals? Absolutely. You've got 'Clinton Cash,' [maybe next] it'll be 'Donald's Dollars.' " And maybe, just maybe, it will wind up at Cannes.