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UVSC ‘media circus’ on film

‘Divided State’ aims to show break in civility

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OREM — When Brigham Young University film student Steven Greenstreet saw the media circus that was developing over the planned visit to Utah Valley State College by controversial filmmaker Michael Moore just weeks before the November presidential election, Greenstreet decided to add his camera to the mix.

The result is an unnarrated documentary titled "This Divided State" that Greenstreet hopes will raise awareness about the breakdown in civil discourse that was generated by the controversy. Greenstreet said he chose not to use narration for the documentary — which will have its first public airing on Feb. 3 at the Ragan Theater on the UVSC campus — because he wanted to avoid the appearance of taking sides.

In addition to Moore's visit, the film also captures events surrounding the visit of conservative radio talk show host Sean Hannity, who was invited to speak at the campus as a "balancing" influence to Moore's known anti-Bush sentiments profiled in his movie "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Greenstreet directed, edited and co-produced the film with UVSC communications department chairman Phil Gordon.

After Moore was invited to speak on campus, students in a reality television class taught by Gordon decided to shift their focus to documenting his appearance. When they discovered that Greenstreet was shooting a similar project, the two groups decided to collaborate.

"We just turned the cameras on the school, because it was obvious that something was going on here," Gordon said. "We had never seen anything like this before, and it seemed historic."

Greenstreet said the film is centered around the reactions of the community, not Moore

"People don't have to worry that this is yet another Michael Moore documentary," he said. "It's about this community; it's about Orem, and Utah, and the people here. (Moore) is really not the most important aspect of the film."

Greenstreet said his goal was to focus on the breakdown of civil discourse when he sat down to edit the footage.

"The basic overall feeling of the film is that in many instances, civil discourse failed, miserably," he said. "I think the main message of the film is that the nation as whole and our community alike need to learn new lessons on how to get along and how to have a civil discourse in such a divided state."

Greenstreet and Gordon emphasized that the film tries not to take sides.

"If it has a side, I think that the movie is clearly in favor of free speech," Gordon said. "If it (footage) was about the struggle over the free speech, it was included, and if it was about other stuff that wasn't relevant, it wasn't included."

Greenstreet said the choice against use of narration was intended to to avoid choosing just one particular way to view the events.

"A narrator is a character, and that narrator kind of represents the film, and I didn't want one person, or one voice to represent the film, because I think that the film is full of many voices and many points of view," he said.

Greenstreet said he hopes those who see the film will learn from seeing what happened.

"I'm hoping that people will watch this film and learn from history, and learn how to adapt better ways of getting along and listening and arguing with each other," he said.

Despite the overwhelming media coverage that has already been presented since the controversy erupted, Greenstreet believes people need to look back at what happened.

"For anybody to say, 'I've had enough with it,' I think that's a very apathetic way of thinking," he said. "I would hope that people would want to see it (the documentary) and learn from it. Because if you look at the state of the nation and the the state of the community, there's a wedge."

Gordon said he believes the entire UVSC community will be interested in and like the film.

"I think the people that were both for and against Michael Moore will come and enjoy the movie," he said. "It just makes the school look like a place where there is lively and vital political debate."

Though the Feb. 3 screening is the only one currently planned, Gordon and Greenstreet hope the film will eventually become widely released. They are currently talking with potential distributors.

Greenstreet has also submitted the film for consideration at several international film festivals.

For information about the Feb. 3 screening, e-mail utahfilmmakers@gmail.com.

E-mail: mdecker@desnews.com