×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Split: A Deeper Divide

The documentary's broad theme necessitates quick, superficial treatment of myriad underlying causes, but it's a solid, fairly even-handed spur for discussion that will be particularly welcome in classroom settings.

With:
With: Chuck Hagel, Evan Bayh, Al Franken, Tom Price, John Dingell, Lawrence Lessig, Paul Starr, Norman Ornstein, Grover Norquist, Noam Chomsky, Robert Kaiser, Amy Goodman, Nicholas Kristof, Thomas Frank, Ezra Klein, Tucker Carlson.

Kelly Nyks’ debut feature, “Split: A Deeper Divide,” is an overview of an American political landscape in which the center no longer holds (and indeed barely exists), with civil discourse and a functioning government increasingly undone by bitter partisanship. None of this will be news to informed viewers, and the documentary’s broad theme necessitates quick, superficial treatment of myriad underlying causes. But it’s a solid, fairly even-handed spur for discussion that will be particularly welcome in classroom settings. Limited theatrical release commences Oct. 12, with Documentary Channel airdates following in early November.

The opening features a barrage of mostly retired senatorial talking heads remarking on today’s locked-horn standoff between Republicans and Democrats. “Democracy can only work with consensus,” says one. “So it’s not working right now,” says another.

We then meet filmmaker Nyks, who commits the near-inevitable current-docu crime of unnecessarily putting himself onscreen as host. But his talks to the camera, from behind the wheel of his car on a cross-country exploration of the nation’s “rampant partisanship,” are mercifully few, even if that only underlines the irrelevance of their being included at all. (Nor does the road-trip conceit really surface enough to provide any narrative structure after it’s announced.)

The pic is divided into chapters by six extremely broad questions Nyks has formulated, from “How are we divided?” to “What’s the answer?” Much information is crammed in between. After a brief man-on-street sampler of political stereotyping (notably, both liberals and conservatives think one another “the party of the rich”), we get a breakdown of how “red state vs. blue state” is less meaningful than differences between rural and urban populations, as well as separations drawn by morality, race and class.

A short, snarky summary of divisiveness in America’s first 200 or so years reveals that only 39 of 55 delegates agreed to sign the Constitution. Disputes over slavery, and labor vs. management demands later caused serious destabilization nationwide. Yet seldom has rapprochement between sides seemed so remote as in recent years. Nyks’ mix of opining politicos, academics and media types cite numerous causes: Among them are individuals’ disconnection from their own communities, as town hall-style forums have been replaced by media outlets that no longer inhabit the neutral center (as in the days of just three TV networks), but accentuate and reinforce extreme positions to win lucrative niche auds in a crowded, competitive field.

There’s also the degradation in genuine public debate wrought by sound bites and staying on point; yelling pundits passing as political experts; the paralysis of filibustering; exploitation of sore spots by encouraging one-issue voters (those who can be blinded to everything else by the mention of gay marriage and abortion, for instance); the politicization of churches; negative campaigning (which drives down voter turnout); the Pandora’s box of Citizens United, et al. Where once it was considered gentlemanly good form to reach for compromise across party lines, now politicians can expect censure or worse if they stray from the hard line.

Though the range and volume of ideas presented might be a tad overwhelming, the pic’s ideal audience consists of those ordinary citizens depicted as victims of this polarization — folks who may not even realize they’ve self-selected communities and media exposure until the chance of hearing an opinion different from theirs is close to nil. Refusing to play partisan itself, the docu seeks simply to remind that intolerance and disinformation flourish in such circumstances. We’re all better off when we understand our neighbors’ diversity well enough to grasp that the government needs to serve their needs, too.

The competent, well-edited package features some simple animation interludes.

Split: A Deeper Divide

Documentary

Production: A Feature Presentations Releasing release and presentation of a PF Pictures production. Produced by Jeff Beard, Peter Hutchinson, Kelly Nyks, Jared Scott. Co-producers, Hans Nyks, Roger Craver, Christina Lee. Directed by Kelly Nyks. Screenplay, Nyks, Peter Hutchinson.

Crew: Camera (color, mini-DV/HD), Tarina Reed, Jared Scott; editors, Jared Scott, Nyks; music, Bradley Hargreaves; music supervisor, Malcolm Francis; sound, Ian Stynes; animation, Mary Hawkins, Chris Hutchinson. Reviewed online, San Francisco, Oct. 10, 2012. Running time: 75 MIN.

With: With: Chuck Hagel, Evan Bayh, Al Franken, Tom Price, John Dingell, Lawrence Lessig, Paul Starr, Norman Ornstein, Grover Norquist, Noam Chomsky, Robert Kaiser, Amy Goodman, Nicholas Kristof, Thomas Frank, Ezra Klein, Tucker Carlson.

More Film

  • European Union Placeholder

    European Parliament Gives Final Approval to Controversial Article 13 Copyright Directive

    The European Parliament on Tuesday gave final approval of Article 13, a controversial directive that shakes up the rules around copyright in the continent with ramifications for online platforms, content owners and creators, and the general public. The proposed new framework, now approved, has sparked widespread debate among the platforms, public, and content firms. The platforms, [...]

  • Fox Disney Layoffs

    Fox Studio Quickly Fades Away as Disney Starts Work on Integration

    In the waning days of 21st Century Fox, there was a run on the searchlight. As Disney neared the completion of its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox, employees on the Fox lot rushed into the studio’s gift shop to pick up mugs, shot glasses, sweatshirts, hats and T-shirts emblazoned with 20th Century Fox’s [...]

  • Small Theaters Struggle to Survive in

    Inside Indie Movie Theaters' Battle to Survive

    Nestled at the foot of a large hill on the edge of downtown Providence, R.I., Cable Car Cinema was known to local moviegoers as ”the one with the couches.” That was a charitable description. They were love seats, really — perfect if you were with a date but awkward if you went to see a [...]

  • Nadine Labaki

    Cannes: Nadine Labaki to Head Un Certain Regard Jury

    Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki has been named president of the jury for Un Certain Regard in Cannes. The Festival said Labaki had been chosen after “moving hearts and minds at the last Festival de Cannes with her Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated ‘Capernaum,’ which won the Jury Prize.” The organizers noted Labaki’s films have all [...]

  • Osmosis

    Netflix Unveils Four More French Originals, 'Gims,' 'Anelka,' 'Move,' 'Of Earth And Blood'

    As it prepares to open a fully-staffed office in France and ramp up its investment in local originals, Netflix has unveiled three new documentaries, “Move” (working title), “Gims” (working title), and “Anelka” (working title), and the feature film “Of Earth And Blood” while at Series Mania in Lille. Announced during a panel with Netflix’s commissioning [...]

  • Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home

    Film News Roundup: Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home for Christmas'

    In today’s film news roundup, “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” is in the works, the NFL has made a documentary about female team owners and D Street Pictures has signed Kenny Gage and Devon Downs to direct the dance feature “Move.” HOLIDAY PROJECT Miramax has acquired film rights to Lauren Iungerich’s holiday-themed screenplay “I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content