“Michigan Divided,” a documentary produced by The Center for Michigan and Bridge Magazine exploring the partisan gap separating Michigan residents after the 2016 presidential election, has won an Emmy.
Producer and screenwriter Ron French and director Al Lilly were honored for Best Topical Documentary in the 2018 Michigan Regional Emmy Awards, announced Saturday in Detroit.
“Michigan Divided” is a film version of a year-long Bridge Magazine project of the same name that followed 11 people from across the state in 2017. In the film, French and Lilly followed six Michigan families to try to understand how different life experiences lead to different political views.
“It’s like they’re gangs…like we’re the Crips and they’re the Bloods,” a frustrated Flint native Marlando Wade says about the partisan strife in the film. “They don’t realize people are getting hurt in their turf war.”
The documentary sprang from concern that Michigan was slipping into the partisan divides afflicting much of the country, with some residents losing an ability to see the good in people with whom they disagree. This as the state faces critical decisions on crumbling roads and schools, jobs and taxes.
The film was shown in more than 50 communities around the state and in numerous Michigan social studies classes.
“It’s easy to shout and pass blame, but the problems we all face every day in Michigan can’t be solved by shouting,” said Lilly, the film’s director. “If this movie can motivate just one person to start a conversation with someone they disagree with, I’ll consider it a success.”
“Michigan Divided” was the first documentary produced by Bridge and The Center for Michigan, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that publishes Bridge. “”Part of our mission is to make Michigan a better state,” French said. “That’s hard to do when half the state is demonizing the other half.
“We hope the film shows that, while there are some things we may never agree on, there are lots of issues on which we can find common ground if we just talk to each other,” French said.