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A Michigan divide? Documentary follows families in a fiery political year

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This is what a divide looks like: an East Lansing mom who can’t understand conservatives and a Harbor Springs woman who can’t understand liberals; a U.P. couple looking for jobs, and a Muslim couple searching for security. On the west side of the state, a Grand Rapids businessman wants lower taxes. And on the east side, a Flint homeowner just wants clean water.

“Michigan Divided,” a documentary by Bridge Magazine and The Center for Michigan, follows six families through a tumultuous year of politics to see if they can find common ground.  

“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.”

“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.

“It feels like people have a completely different view of reality,” former Michigan Republican Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema says in the film. Former Democratic Senate Minority Leader Bob Emerson agreed, adding: “It’s ‘You’re wrong, and I don’t have to listen to you any more, I can unfriend you.’”

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 this election year on crumbling infrastructure and schools, jobs and taxes.

“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 Michigan Divided film director Al Lilly. “If this movie can motivate just one person to start a conversation with someone they disagree with, I’ll consider it a success.”

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