Steven Greenstreet may be young, but he's a filmmaker posessing keen intuition, an eye for a good story, and a documentarian par excellence. I was introduced to "This Divided State", his newest film, just a few weeks ago, via e-mail. After watching the trailer, I knew- come hell or high water, I HAD to see this movie.

Fortunately, the folks at Minority Films were good enough to send me a pre-release copy of the DVD. After watching it, I have to say that it ranks among the best american political documentaries that I've ever seen- it is on par with the works of Michael Moore, Richard Ray Perez, and Robert Greenwald.

Fortunately, the folks at Minority Films were good enough to send me a pre-release copy of the DVD. After watching it, I have to say that it ranks among the best american political documentaries that I've ever seen- it is on par with the works of Michael Moore, Richard Ray Perez, and Robert Greenwald.

In November of 2004, the student body officers of Utah Valley State College invited Michael Moore to speak at their university. UVSC is located in Orem City, a city that proudly touts its monicker of "Family City, USA", in a state that is among the reddest in our nation. Naturally, this invitation to Moore created a firestorm of controversy, and outright partisain vitriol (on both sides) that was a spectacle to behold.

At this time, Greenstreet was a student and video editor at Brigham Young University, but when he heard of this, he put it all on the line- he dropped out of school, quit his job, maxed out his credit cards, and headed to Orem city with a skeleton crew, to cover the events that unfolded.

When he arrived, Greenstreet and his ragtag crew were confronted with what assistant director Elias Pate described as "Complete and Utter chaos." Right-wing students were rabble-rousing. Local residents (foremost among them Kay Anderson, who attempted to bribe the university to keep Moore from speaking) were up in arms. Moore supporters were asking "who are you to quash one person's voice?"

As fun as it would be to just focus the cameras on the nutjobs, the filmmakers go deeper. Many conservative students (including one fun guy who is a dead ringer for Moore), tried to make their voices heard, saying that while they disagreed with Moore, they supported the school's decision to invite Moore, because they believed in free speech. Unfortunately, their voices were lost in the general insanity that gripped the college.

However, as easy as it would be, in such a case, to resort to the standard documentary method of presenting either side as grotesque caricatures of their respective viewpoints, the creators of this film endeavored to not cast any pre-concieved notions upon the players in this all-too-real drama. They just turned their cameras on their subjects, and let them represent themselves. This film (unlike Moore's), is bereft of any narration, or commentary- the viewer isn't led by the hand- we're left to make up our own minds- and that, by far, is the film's greatest virtue.

We see the story unfold- the major gripe of those opposed to Moore's appearance is that the university has to pay Moore's speaking fee of 40,000 dollars. On the surface, this is a legitimate complaint, if one didn't take into account that the university, through sponsors and ticket fees, would make a profit on Moore's visit. A last-minute compromise brings Sean Hannity to speak at the university, as a counter balance. Being the magnanimous guy that he is, Hannity waives his standard speaking fee of 100,000 dollars, but the university has to pay for his private jet transport- a bill that came to 50,000 dollars. (Side note- if UVSC wants me to speak, all I want is 500 bucks, a pack of winston ultra-lights, and a hotel room at the local Quality Inn.)

Hannity arrives at the university, and we're given a ringside seat, as he parades back and forth on the UVSC arena stage, spewing his standard vicious, mean sprited, condescending rhetoric, to rapturous applause. He takes delight at bringing one of the few liberals in attendance up on stage with him, and subjecting the poor guy to the shouted abuse and hateful screams of thousands of onlookers.

At this point, it's clear: Ladies and Gentlemen, sanity has left the building.

And it gets worse. In the days leading up to Moore's visit, accusations fly, lawsuits are issued, and one can only sit back, and wonder- is THIS the what passes for political discourse in our country?

True- a few on the pro-Moore left, in this episode, were guilty of extremism- but their extremism is limited to a few ribald words, a few signs, and a few demonstrations. The anti-Moore right is guilty of far worse- The UVSC student body president tells us that his wife is urging him to wear a bullet-proof vest, and confesses that he's afraid that he'll have bricks thrown through his window (this hits home to me, personally, as, during the election campaign on 2004, I was subject to a fatwah by a right-wing website, offering rewards to those who ensured that I died, in an "unfortunate accident"). Kay Anderson labels those who disagree with him "Evil" and "Anti American." Those who support Moore's visit are told that they are disgracing their family's names, and their mormon faith- which, is the most vile of slanders.

The culmination of the film is Moore's speech. What evil words, what traitorous propaganda will this man spew?

Surprise, surprise! In marked contrast to the condescending, divisive rhetoric spewed by Hannity, Moore delivers a speech that is a ringing affirmation of the fundamental rights of americans, as defined by our constitution. Rather than condemning the right (as Hannity so gleefully condemned the left), he reaches out to them, calling them his "republican brothers and sisters", affriming that they have a "good heart and soul", asserting that he, and us on the left, will never treat them as badly as they have treated the minorities of this country. Rather than condemning those which fought so hard to deny his right to speak at the campus as ideologues, he assures them that, should the republicans fall from power, they will not suffer, but, rather, benefit, because they will have equal access to universal health care, and republican families, as well as democratic families, will be able to celebrate the return of their sons and daughters from Iraq. I could go on- but Moore, well, brings the house down, and one is left to wonder "why would anyone object to these words having been said?"

But, guess what? People do, and the controversy continues. Jobs are lost, friendships ripped asunder, and one is left, wondering- how the hell could the simple excercise of free speech, lead to such an uproar?

In the end, this film is an examination of the deep partisain political divide that grips our country. It shows how this divide rends communities, and friends apart, and the shows damage that it causes.

I have a feeling that Steven Greenstreet would most likely brand myself, and, as being every bit as guilty in creating this deep ideological rift, as Kay Anderson. However, I've lived in deep-blue states for well onto seven years, now, and I've never seen anything on the left approaching the insanity of this red-state controversy, anywhere, here.

I could ramble on...

"This divided State" is a masterpiece. The producers of this film deserve kudos, and mass influxes of cash from movie producers- I just hope they don't sell out, when their genius is inevitably recognized.

If you have a chance to view this film, please do- it's worth every penny of the ticket price. It will illuminate you, and make you think, and reflect, in new ways that you never concieved of, before. If you didn't catch the link before, click here, and pre-order the DVD, or check it out, if it's coming to your town.

I give it five stars out of five. Greenstreet, and his crew, are the future of american documentary filmmaking.