This Divided State

"Excellent"

This Divided State Review


When I think of mass bigotry arising out of a fundamentalist religious credo, my images go to the Taliban, the Iranian clerics, the Palestinian Hamas. Farther back in history, grand ideas about God and the power of the church led to the Inquisition and the Crusades. But, in modern times, in a modern western society? Here in the U.S. of A? Community intolerance based on religious fanaticism is unknown... isn't it?

If anyone imagines that the answer to that question is yes, this documentary stands to wipe out that rosy picture. Sadly and profoundly, the tendency in the human race to gather into groups that think themselves superior to others is alive and well in the Mormon community of Utah where, in some places, principles of democracy, inclusion, and concepts like freedom of speech just don't apply.

Imagine a community college that is so shaky as a bastion of political conservatism that it fears a speaking engagement by Michael Moore when he's invited for a taste of "the other side." Imagine, if you can, a level of debate and invective that rips away all traces of collegiality and balance. Imagine death threats and near-violent demonstrations. Director Steven Greenstreet, a former Brigham Young University student, vividly documents all of it in a real-time record of frenzy in 2004, just before the election.

It all started when Sean Hannity was invited to speak at Utah Valley State College and someone (student body president Jim Bassi and student Michael Nagro) had the temerity and judgment to think that, in the interest of balance, a voice from the other side should also be heard. A call then went out to Michael Moore, offering a speaker fee of $40,000, to be paid out of ticket sales. Hannity was appearing for free, but the college would have to pay his expenses, including a round trip on a private jet which, it could be assumed, was to let no one misunderstand what an important person this talk show host was.

The concept of balance is passionately and instantly rejected by the majority of Orem City students and residents. To them, the notion of listening to a dissenting voice is a non-starter, unacceptable. Democracy on campus... here? Fuggedaboudit.

When a student extremist-activist (Sean Vreeland) starts a petition drive to prevent Moore's appearance, he sets up his station for signatures on campus. While claiming objectivity, he falsely spins the idea that Moore's $40,000 fee is coming directly from student pockets, but he quickly denies he ever said it when the lie is exposed. He just goes on and continues his rant and, when he finds his efforts unsuccessful at protecting the student body from exposure to a voice that opposes his own, the next option he chooses is a legal attack.

In this, he's not alone. Kay Anderson, an apparently well-to-do homeowner who lives across from the Orem City campus, takes it on as a personal mission to keep his community pure. He's all over, making specious arguments about the sanctity of the community and its love of everything republican. But there's a hysteria about the energy he brings to the debate, a fear. In a state where the political right to left ratio is 12:1, the extremity of the effort is enough to cause one to wonder where the fear originates. Is their belief so shaky, and so subject to weakening, that this minion of the status quo needs to come up with a multi-thousand dollar check to compensate the college if it will cancel the Devil of Liberalism's appearance?

The school debate is raucous and emotionally charged as assemblies are held to hear people out on the issue. When freedom of speech and hearing-the-other-side notions are raised, they're drowned out in a sound wall of insult and outrage. These paragons of righteousness and family values don't, apparently, have the confidence in their own family's training (and you can bet these kids are rubber stamped in the political image of their parents' ideology) that they regard a spokesman for another point of view as too great a risk. This person might undermine convictions, after all. And theirs is a campaign against the devil. They have their own version of the "Great Satan," and that version includes some of us. My lord. When did Michael Moore become an Iranian Ayatollah?

It must be added that plenty of the students express collegiate objectivity and an open attitude, and the faculty seems mostly in tune with the principles of balance and what some of us think of as the nature of our country. When someone points out that the Mormons were forced to come to Utah in the first place because of intolerance, the room goes silent for a moment. But, to young fundamentalist republicans, there'll be no dilution of their stock or their credos. The great diluter approaches, and they're angry about it.

Intolerance and Bigotry 101. In 2005.

Director Steven Greenstreet (also cinematographer, editor, and producer) includes events and interviews -- everything and anyone relevant to the controversy, recording all sides equally in good documentary fashion. Taking no editorial position, he allows the subjects to expose themselves to his audience, for viewers to praise or to ridicule. Selfishness, bombast, fear, class loathing... it all reveals itself before Greenstreet's objective lens. The approach to recording the story is everything its subjects aren't.

While it's very much in the eye of the beholder, my take is that an objective view of what's really going on here will see this uprising against a different viewpoint as the refuge of scoundrels who have no clue how disgusting their hysteria registers on the rest of us. I only hope "the rest of us" is the majority.



This Divided State

Facts and Figures

Run time: 88 mins

In Theaters: Friday 22nd July 2005

Distributed by: Minority Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 20 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Steven Greenstreet

Producer: Steven Greenstreet

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Trumbo Movie Review

Trumbo Movie Review

An entertaining film about sobering true events, this is the story of notorious screenwriter Dalton...

Goosebumps Movie Review

Goosebumps Movie Review

Mixing the action, comedy and horror from novelist R.L. Stein's books into a family-friendly package,...

Dad's Army Movie Review

Dad's Army Movie Review

The beloved 1970s British sit-com gets the big screen treatment, although there's been very little...

Spotlight Movie Review

Spotlight Movie Review

This film demonstrates that you don't need guns to make an exciting thriller. Based on...

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

Not the subtlest director working in Hollywood, Michael Bay brings his surging machismo to this...

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

There's nothing clever about this deliberately rude and vulgar comedy, but certain audiences will find...

The Big Short Movie Review

The Big Short Movie Review

Smart and snappy, this comedy is one of the scariest films of the year, using...

Advertisement
The 5th Wave Movie Review

The 5th Wave Movie Review

Also based on the first in a trilogy of post-apocalyptic teen novels, this thriller feels...

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart reteam for a sequel no one really asked for, following...

Room Movie Review

Room Movie Review

One of the most extraordinary films of the year, this drama cleverly weaves in events...

Creed Movie Review

Creed Movie Review

While this film is basically Rocky VII, it's also much more than that, and perhaps...

A Perfect Day Movie Review

A Perfect Day Movie Review

An irreverent comedy in the style of the original M.A.S.H., this wartime romp takes an...

Partisan Movie Review

Partisan Movie Review

With his feature debut, young Australian filmmaker Ariel Kleiman tells a creepy story about a...

The Revenant Movie Review

The Revenant Movie Review

A wrenching saga of survival and revenge, Alejandro G. Inarritu's new epic is just as...

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker who simply can't be ignored, especially when he lobs a...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.