Kelly and I met on SPLIT: A Deeper Divide. Our production company PF Pictures evolved from making films together. We had the stark realization that we can’t possibly tackle the extraordinary challenges we face, ones that we will have to tackle as a nation given their scope and scale, when don’t even talk to those on the other side of the aisle…A sincere desire to talk to Americans of all walks of life and political persuasions led to a cross country investigation, and SPLIT was born.
SPLIT asks the question: “Are we still capable of governing ourselves?” What do you think?
It most certainly doesn’t seem so with the current gridlock in Washington. If the governing is being done by the career politician inundated by non-stop fund-raising, pandering politics and a winner-take-all-party-first mentality, then we are out of luck. All the major issues of the day: climate change, education and health care, all need bipartisan support and bipartisan solutions. As Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig says, “unless we address the underlying problem, unless we fix this broken institution of congress, we are not going to make progress on any of those fronts.”
Is the polarization of America handed to us on a silver platter by the news media? By politicians?
There is a market for the ideological news media outlets. Most of us are happily complacent re-confirming our world views in what media we choose to consume. I worry about the lack of media literacy as a nation, critical thinking skills, the inability to see other sides of issues, to separate opinion from fact, to understand infotainment from thoughtful reporting, and see/read/listen to things that challenge our world views. Unfortunately, we are on our own here and we should be teaching media literacy in our schools.
How do we go about igniting a real interest in the American political system?
Education. The more informed the electorate, the more they will participate in the process.
SPLIT is being used in schools. Can you tell us about it?
We see documentaries as platforms for discussions on critical issues of the day and nowhere is that more important than for young citizens embarking on their civic life. SPLIT: A Deeper Divide is being donated to high schools in the 50 most divided districts in the country in Partnership with the National Council for the Social Studies. The Lesson Plan “A Journey Across America”, designed in collaboration with the Institute of Politics at Harvard, focuses on discourse and respect for the opinions of others in exploring the different divisive factors in our politics.
What films, editors and directors have influenced you in a positive way? Why?
There are so many. Off the top of my head in the doc world: Errol Morris for his artfulness, Gibney for his ability to crank out great docs, Alastair Fothergill for showing the wonders of nature, Our Daily Bread‘s sobering observational style, Manufactured Landscapes’ thoughtfulness, Eugene Jarecki’s Why We Fight, Yann Arthus-Betrand’s Home is Beautiful, and so on…
If you could interview or document anyone’s life, who would it be?
What is the next project you are working on?
The Fight, a diagnosis of the dysfunction in American democracy through the lens of health care. And Requiem for the American Dream, a film about inequality and the financialization of America starring Noam Chomsky.
In your opinion, what is the question of the moment to be asked during the Presidential debates?
What is your plan to respond to climate change and create a clean energy future?
What will never go out of style?
Jenny by design.
(Ah, why thank you…)
Image Credit: Courtesy of PF Pictures
Note: This interview has been condensed and edited.