Bridge, Center for Michigan win Emmy for ‘Michigan Divided’ documentary

From left, Ron French, screenwriter and producer of “Michigan Divided,” and documentary director Al Lilly show off their Emmys after Saturday’s award show in Detroit.

“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.”

Watch “Michigan Divided” here:

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.

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Mon, 06/17/2019 - 4:46pm

Ron French is a graduate of MHS . He is the son of the
late Ed and Vaudene French of North Manchester

Mike Radke
Tue, 06/18/2019 - 10:22am

This video clearly documents the political division, vitriol, and demonization of politics in Michigan. People on both sides of the political divide have much in common but most politicians manipulate the rhetoric to polarize even further. This must change.
So what is being done to change this? Here is what I want and do not want.

Here is what I don’t want:
- No Attack ads or attacks of any nature.
- No Condescension to people who differ from your positions.
- No Vitriol, characterizing the other side as evil, uninformed, or stupid
- No Polarization, characterizing opponents as extremists, pushing them to extreme positions
- No Mean-spirited contributions and exaggeration in echo chambers on social media or in person
- No Playing the media so that they do the above.
- Stop simplifying solutions to complex problems. There are no more simple problems at your level. There will be no simple solutions if you are going to serve the left and the middle and the right which is the only way to long term success.
- Hold the media to these standards too. Call them on their polarization, exaggeration, simplification, erroneous or incomplete facts. They will also rise to a better standard.

Here’s what I do want:
- Invite participation by both blues and REDS at the grassroots level. Listen first. Help those on the other side express their views in a constructive way and listen without countering immediately with why they are wrong.
- Look for common ground. You are bright enough to find ways to hold onto your values, respect the values of the other side and find some common ground. Publicly show that you are doing this.
- Solve our most pressing problems by first getting clear what the underlying issues of the problem are. Describe the problem you are addressing in all of its complexity. Consider all possible solutions in all their complexity. Propose a solution and listen to see if you have missed the mark before moving to implementation. But make progress!
- Look for the deeper solutions. Surround yourself with out of the box thinkers and experts. People who can help you (and your counterparts) find ways to be more inclusive of people on all sides and find more solutions of deeper value. Not the lobbyists who represent one self-interested group. This is much harder but serves the public much better.
- Compromise on the details where needed to make progress.
- Stick to your values. You can take strong positions on issues and you should. But you will bring more into your tent by listening carefully to other perspectives and adjusting where possible.
- There are smart people on both sides of most issues. Find them, listen to them, make progress and share the credit with them. You will strengthen your own legacy and be supporting a reasonable adversary’s legacy too (to your own advantage). It is much better to have a reasonable adversary than an unreasonable one.
- Take advice from marketing professionals and campaign experts with a grain of salt. Just because politicians have won in the past with attacking, polarizing and vitriol doesn’t mean it will work next time. We are fed up with that style. Challenge your advisors to find better ways to succeed, ways consistent with your foundational values and those of this nation.
- As much as possible, control your supporters to avoid the “don’t-s” and follow the “do-s.”

I offer this advice along with my assistance to help you follow it. There are several organizations that are actually doing the work with proven effective activities that get liberals and conservatives, republicans and democrats, Reds and Blues to have meaningful face to face conversations to understand the humanity of the other side, multiple sides of issues, and find common ground. Better Angles is one of these. Start at the grassroots level but also engage in these depolarizing activities with politicians, the media, churches, business and social organizations.