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Film dissects pros, cons of Moore visit

Did discourse fail? Most say dialogue was healthy, helpful

A UVSC audience views "This Divided State," a documentary about Michael Moore's visit to the campus and the community reaction.
A UVSC audience views "This Divided State," a documentary about Michael Moore's visit to the campus and the community reaction.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News

OREM — A fledgling filmmaker says the debate over the appropriateness of inviting left-leaning movie maker Michael Moore to Utah Valley State College was a snippet from a large discourse that occurred in the United States.

That's why 25-year-old Steven Greenstreet decided to name his 92-minute film about the debate over the "Fahrenheit 9/11" director's visit to Utah Valley "This Divided State."

Moore spoke at the college Oct. 20 — just two weeks before the presidential election — when Americans were divided over the state of the country's affairs — both at home and overseas.

Greenstreet said he thought it was ironic that the premiere screening of his film at Utah Valley State College on Thursday was held the same week President Bush gave his State of the Union address. The screening drew about 500 people.

In the movie, Greenstreet said, "you'll see a study in civil discourse."

"In many cases," he said, "it failed."

But did it?

Not according to some students and administrators at UVSC.

At a State of the College address, UVSC President William Sederburg said there was balance between Moore, known for his Bush-bashing, and conservative talk-show host Sean Hannity, who was subsequently invited to speak on campus after groups of students and people in the community expressed outrage over Moore's visit.

Student funds went toward paying Moore, whose politically liberal views represent only a minority in Utah County, which has been described as one of the most conservative counties in the country.

Those who applauded Moore's appearance at the Orem campus said allowing him on campus was an issue of academic freedom and free speech.

"Everybody got to express themselves," Sederburg said. "I don't think we have anything to be embarrassed about."

Landon Smith, a junior at UVSC studying communications, will remember the dynamic interaction on campus in a positive manner.

"Last semester was fun. All the fights in the halls, the rallies," he said.

But Kay Anderson, a UVSC neighbor who vocally opposed Moore's visit and offered the school $25,000 if it canceled his appearance, said Greenstreet's film made him and the other vocal people, both for and against Moore, "look stupid."

In retrospect, though, he does not regret his position.

"I think we did what we had to do. I guess we all could have done better," Anderson said as he left the screening.

Anderson requested an at-home interview be removed from "This Divided State" after he learned UVSC students were assisting on the film. Anderson believes the students had bias.

Greenstreet, a Brigham Young University student who went into $10,000 of credit-card debt to make the film, did not cut the interview, however.

He wonders what good the polarizing debate accomplished.

"I think we all walked away thinking the same as before," he said.

Michelle Beebe, a Spanish Fork resident, left the screening with similar views.

"It's an anguish to see who can talk the loudest," she said.

Since the screening, Greenstreet has returned to his native Maryland for a visit.

He said an official with a "large distributor" tried to attend Thursday's screening but couldn't get away from Los Angeles. The representative may meet up with him in Baltimore, he said.

"It's not kosher to mention (the name of the company) before the details are arranged," he said.