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: 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.

Popular on Variety

Split: A Deeper Divide


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

  • Aaron Janus Lionsgate

    Lionsgate Hires 'A Quiet Place' Producer Aaron Janus as Senior VP of Production

    Lionsgate has hired Aaron Janus as its new senior vice president of production and promoted Meredith Wieck to the post of vice president of production.  Prior to Lionsgate, Janus served as Platinum Dunes’ head of development, where he oversaw filmmakers Brad Fuller, Andrew Form and Michael Bane. There, he brought in “A Quiet Place,” on [...]

  • Ang Lee Reveals First Look at

    Ang Lee on 'Gemini Man' and De-Aging Will Smith

    On paper, Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” is a standard-issue, shoot ’em up with Will Smith playing a deadly assassin who must battle a younger clone of himself. The explosions and gun battles aren’t what drew Lee to the project, even if they’re the reason that most people will show up at theaters when it opens [...]

  • Hopper Reserve

    Dennis Hopper's Dying Wish: His Own Strain of Marijuana

    Even as celebrity brands are starting to flood the emerging Cannabis market, Hopper Reserve stands out. The brand was launched by Marin Hopper, Dennis Hopper’s daughter from his marriage to Brooke Hayward. Hopper Reserve is a gram of California indoor-grown flower, two packs of rolling papers, a pair of matches and a trading card either [...]

  • Sean Clarke Aardman Staff Photography Bristol.Pic

    Aardman Appoints Sean Clarke as New Managing Director

    Aardman, the Oscar-winning animation studio behind “Chicken Run” and “Early Man,” has appointed Sean Clarke as its new managing director, replacing co-founder David Sproxton, who is stepping down after 43 years. Clarke has worked at the British studio for more than 20 years, including heading the international rights and marketing department for over a decade. [...]

  • The Antenna

    Toronto Film Review: 'The Antenna'

    Jump scares, creepy noises and the tease of hidden-from-view dangers are all fine. But a truly frightening horror film unsettles with more than its crafts, but instead through the vulnerability of defenseless people stuck with bad options only. First-time writer-director Orçun Behram’s highly stylized and mildly disturbing “The Antenna,” a metaphor on Turkey’s current ruling [...]

  • Ad Astra Box Office

    Box Office Battle: 'Ad Astra' Takes on 'Rambo: Last Blood' and 'Downton Abbey'

    “Hustlers” and “Good Boys” proved that even in the age of Marvel dominance and remake mania, movies that don’t exist within an established franchise can still be box office draws. Can “Ad Astra” continue that trend? The space drama — starring Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray — arrives on the big screen this [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein Accuser Lucia Evans Breaks

    Harvey Weinstein Accuser Lucia Evans Breaks Silence After D.A. Dropped Charge

    Lucia Evans gave a wrenching account on Tuesday of her efforts to hold Harvey Weinstein responsible for sexual assault, saying she felt betrayed after the Manhattan D.A.’s office dropped her allegations last year. Evans spoke to Variety after giving a speech at a conference on influencer fraud in Manhattan, making her first public comments on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content