The Divide


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Divide
"Katharine Round has produced a film that feels human and substantial."

Inspired by Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett's 2009 book The Spirit Level, and drawing heavily on it for supporting facts and statistics, The Divide is an exploration of the impact of financial inequality on individuals and society. Compred with other films on the subject, it's remarkable in its subtlety, in part because of its structure. Rather than starting with the data or placing the emphasis on political argument, it tells the stories of seven people in different social situations, on different sides of the Atlantic, looking at their hopes and fears. The most potent take-away is that, at least when focused on finance and working life, not one of them is really happy.

This is a film that asks more of ts audience than the traditional polemic. It invites viewers to sympathise both with high flying executive Auden and brutalised prisoner Keith. A psychiatrist pinpoints the delusions of the former and the inbuilt human biases that have led him to believe wealth is really, and purely, a natural result of hard work. Keith shows more insight into his own failings, though he despairs of the misanthropy his circumstances have led him to feel - locked up for the rest of his life for a minor drugs offence (due to the US 'three strikes and you're out' laws) whilst the bankers who brought down the global economy in 2008 now walk free. Keith has no future now, but Auden has little present. He works long hours and daren't get ill. Perhaps one day he'll enjoy a fulfilling retirement. Perhaps he'll jut die of a heart attack, never having taken the time to engage with life.

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Between these two extremes, others live their lives, some of them also working long shifts, working hard,but failing to see the magic happen - all they ever do is get by. Jen, with a baby on the way, takes a more optimistic position than most. She's looking for a new home. But will she really own her home, or just own a mortgage? Even in gated communities there seems to be a divide. As far as children are concerned, comparative lack of wealth can make some people literally untouchable.

In bringing together these stories, director Katharine Round has produced a film that feels human and substantial. The hard data on the sidelines preserves it from promoting reliance on simple anecdote, whilst the individual stories give that data texture and depth. It's an impressive achievement for a low budget, crowdfunded project. Each of the participants has a degree of natural charisma that keeps things interesting, and the productions is ;polished without looking too glossy - we need to be aware of the rough edges here. At a time when political and economic ideologies are very much in flux, The Divide makes a valuable contribution to communicating the framework of the debate - and to explaining why it matters.

Reviewed on: 21 Sep 2015
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The story of the rising gap between rich and poor, told through seven individual accounts.
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Director: Katharine Round

Writer: Kate Pickett, Richard Wilkinson

Year: 2015

Runtime: 78 minutes

Country: UK


Doc/Fest 2015

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