The Reunited States of America: New Documentary Seeks to Bridge Political DivideAna Eira, Communications Lead
The Reunited States of America: New Documentary Seeks to Bridge Political Divide
By Ana Eira, Beyond Conflict Communications Lead
Deepening division among Democrats and Republicans in the United States represents a profound threat to American democracy, threatening our institutions, our bonds of trust, and the very fabric that binds our people together. This division is deeply rooted in American politics and extends from the halls of Congress to our neighborhoods and dinner tables. Based on the book of the same name written by Mark Gerzon, The Reunited States documentary directed by Ben Rekhi goes beyond portraying our divisions to show how everyday Americans are finding their own solutions to bridging the partisan divide.
The idea emerged when Rekhi met Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, who has become a powerful voice for unity, healing, and social justice after Heather was killed at the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville in 2017. “I was just really struck by the fact that she had suffered this horrible tragedy but was able to talk about coming together to avoid further violence so that other mothers would not lose their children. I thought people needed to hear this message,” explained Rekhi in conversation with Beyond Conflict’s CEO Tim Phillips.
Besides featuring Bro, the film profiles a series of bridge-builders, including Republicans David and Erin Leaverton, who pack up their family in an RV and travel around the country to understand the struggles faced by their fellow Americans. “They had the wisdom as a couple living in their comfortable white suburban Dallas that if they took a trip [around the country], they would change,” emphasized writer Mark Gerzon who admires the family’s commitment.
Greg Orman, an Independent running for Governor of Kansas in 2018, also appears in the film, trying to persuade voters that a third-party is a viable option. As does Steven Olikara, who launched the Millennial Action Project to increase cooperation across party lines between millennial policymakers.
But Rekhi’s documentary is just the beginning of a larger effort to address the political divide. “The film is the tip of the iceberg. We hope this could be a lightning rod for people to be aware that there is a movement to bridge the divide,” explained the film’s director. The film’s team launched a website full of practical insights on how to listen and have a productive dialogue with others, along with the #HealAmericaPledge, which Beyond Conflict has endorsed.
After directing the film, Rekhi started to challenge his own role in contributing to a toxic political environment. “I realized that I was actually doing and saying things that were aggravating our tensions, that were dividing us. The big realization for me, that I hope comes out of the film, is that all of us are either dividing or uniting every single day. If we have a self-awareness of that, there’s the agency to change it.”
Be sure to check out The Reunited States – out now on Amazon, iTunes, and On Demand.