Film Reviews

The Divide review: Dir. Katharine Round (2016) “Still as important and insightful as it was on its original release”

What happens to the rest of us when the rich get richer..?

If you’ve been blissfully disregarding all the news, before Coronavirus, and specifically financial, for the past 15-20 years then The Divide should justly shock you to the core. There’s no hiding the truth that as the banks get bailed out time and again, seemingly for their mistakes and dodgy investments, the rest of us suffer. But saying that, it isn’t categorically just the ‘rest of us’ is it? 

Inspired by the book The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, Katharine Round directs documentary The Divide and aims to expose the facts of extreme inequality between the rich and the poor that’s been expanding exponentially over the past 35 years. Round focuses on the lives of 7 people, in both the UK and US, who are looking for a better life, but while some are embracing the successes of hard work and rewards, the majority are struggling to make ends meet.

“35 years ago an economic experiment in the US & UK was supposed to provide a better life for all. Today, in both countries, inequality is at its highest rate since 1928.”

This quote kicks off the documentary and is purposefully relevant alongside being extremely important. Opening up our countries and introducing he ‘free market’ was something that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan tried to sell and has failed. For most of us. When this was released in 2016, it felt like the common understanding was that the rich were getting richer and, even four years later, that fact hasn’t really changed very much. The outcome is that the poorer members of society – which adds up to most of us – are the ones that keep losing, when the richer still slip the net.

Interestingly, what Round’s insight reveals is the underlying perception of what a ‘better life’ is and the vast differences of that vision between the US and the UK. While Newcastle-based care worker (do read here for more on the UK elderly care system) Rochelle just wants a meal out and a more comfortable life so she can see her kids more, US psychologist Alden is looking towards living in a gated community, with a guard and a gun, to literally keep his family separate from the world outside – it’s a fictional dystopia in action. But this is real life and in that sense, it’s disturbingly chilling.

The Divide also brings to light the lack of perceived reality taken by those trying to get richer and how out of touch they are with everyday life. It’s important to say this isn’t something director Katharine Round forces upon us, because the better-off people sharing their stories aren’t edited in a biased manner, but it’s clear to see from the facts bought forward that there are incredibly serious, important issues within our society that aren’t being discussed acceptably at the highest level.

In my view, most government doesn’t really appear to speak for the people like it once did but this can change and in an ideal world such movements would be led by documentaries like this. It also reminded me of Jacob Kornbluth’s Inequality for All (2013) and I also recommend that for further insight.

It’s clear that things need to change and Round’s documentary arrives at a very important point in time where we should all assist in stirring up the truth and share it around to everyone concerned.

The Divide is available on demand – Find out where you can watch it

My review was originally published on THN in 2016.


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