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Split: A Deeper Divide: Film Review

Split A Deeper Divide - H 2012

The Bottom Line

Well-meaning doc covers too much ground to look deeply at any one cause of political divisiveness.

Opens:

Friday, Oct. 12 (Feature Presentations Releasing)

Director:

Kelly Nyks

Kelly Nyks goes from state to state and interviews the likes of Chuck Hagel, Al Franken, Tucker Carlson and Noam Chomsky in an attempt to understand our fractured body politic.

Earnestly civic-minded and unusually successful in its efforts to avoid the appearance of siding with any particular political faction, Kelly Nyks' Split: A Deeper Divide sets out to diagnose the high-octane passions that prevent Americans with different viewpoints from finding common ground. Offering a comprehensive picture of the problem, though, requires Nyks to address so many contributing factors that nothing fresh can be said about any one of them. Though Split would be instructive for viewers whose engagement in political discourse has been limited to watching TV news (or for students: the film's being distributed free to classrooms around the country), it has little to offer a well-informed viewer.

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Nyks recruits an impressive array of interviewees, high-profile folks from across the spectrum -- Chuck Hagel to Al Franken, Tucker Carlson to Noam Chomsky -- and balances these usual suspects with man-on-street clips. The latter scenes, shot across the country, contain many thick accents but no yokels: Nyks focuses not on kneejerk reactions but on the legitimate reasons Americans have to feel they can't discuss political beliefs with each other. (He does offer plenty of footage of red-faced shoutfests between protestors on the street, but never with the suggestion that these extremists represent who Americans are as a whole.)

Often spending no more than a minute or two on a topic, Nyks touches on race and religion as triggers for us-vs.-them thinking, laments the growth of the filibuster and use of gerrymandering, and explores the universally understood fact that swing states play a disproportionate role in our elections.

His sober tone is undercut with occasional faux-educational films, short interludes whose tongue-in-cheek humor or less-than-professional animation make them less effective than they might have been. Other tech ingredients also stumble here and there: One of the "original" compositions on the soundtrack sounds distractingly like a song by the xx.

Production Company: PF Pictures
Director: Kelly Nyks
Screenwriters: Kelly Nyks, Peter Hutchison
Producers: Jeff Beard, Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks, Jared Scott
Director of photography: Tarina Reed
Music: Bradley Hargreaves, Popular Beat Combo
Editor: Jared Scott, Kelly Nyks        
No rating, 74 minutes