Alexis Bloom’s Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes is a timely documentary (in the era of all the sexual abuse allegations) that charts the rise and fall of the late Republican Party booster and controversial Fox News mogul, Roger Ailes who crashed amid multiple sexual harassment allegations.
Roger Ailes is first shown in the doc as an elderly successful man. Director Alexis Bloom quickly and very efficiently brings the audiences up to date to what they are in store for. A big scandal. The audiences is shown Ailes as a kid and young man with old photos and a voiceover that updates the audience that Ailes was a very handsome young man, full of wit and humour.
As what good filmmakers do, Bloom connects the audience with the film’s subject. Bloom creates a doc difficult to dislike by carefully crafting her subject as a bully, womanizer, sexual abuser, racist and all-around bloody bastard and then recording his deserved downfall.
Bloom first reveals the insides Ailes as a child. Ailes had inherited an illness, haemophilia (the inability of the blood to clot) from his mother and was a walking time bomb. Because of this fear, the audience is told, Ailes could see the fear in people. The audience is given a lesson on the cunning of Ailes, how he stole the producer-ship of The Mike Douglas Show and how he became media advisor for Richard Nixon enabling him to win the Presidency. The same can be said for why he did for other Senators and Presidents elected. “Without him (Ailes) they would not be there,” is what one interviewee says of Roger Ailes.
The film is quick to point out the success of the man. For 50 years, Roger Ailes heavily influenced Republican politics – from shaping Richard Nixon’s image for the 1968
election (through a series of televised events, whose camera angles were borrowed from Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 Nazi film Triumph of the Will) to steering the conservative movement
towards George H. W. Bush, the Tea Party, Donald Trump et al..
Bloom drops the bomb right at the film’s half hour mark. Interviewee Marketing Consultant Kellie Boyle describes in detail how Ailes came onto her and destroyed her career when she refused in her words; “to lay with the big boys.” The film’s best segments are the testimonies given by Ailes’ accusers.
Backed by Rupert Murdoch, Ailes also started Fox News and turned it into a juggernaut, with profits exceeding those of all its rivals combined. Discarding notions of traditional journalism, he offered up flame-throwing TV. Short skirts and low necklines mesmerized the audience – and, as long as Fox made money, there was little oversight of his fiefdom. Under his tutelage, anger and fear became the norm, both on the ballot and on national television. He is as one aid claimed – ‘more important than America’.
Alexis Bloom is a double Emmy nominee for the documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Bloom is in the big league of doc filmmakers with Alex Gibney serving as executive producer for this film.
The doc opens at the Ted Rogers Cinema and is also available VOD on December the 7th.