Festival of Ideas: The Divide - The End of Inequality Discussion

The Divide

classified 12A


Please note: This was screened in May 2016

Katharine Round
Noam Chomsky, Richard Wilkinson, Kate Pickett, Max Hastings
78 mins, 2015, UK/USA

Inspired by the critically-acclaimed, best-selling book The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, documentarian Katherine Round has created a lyrical, thoughtful and tragi-comic picture of how the economic divide creates social division.

In modern-day USA and UK where the top 0.1 per cent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 per cent, The Divide tells the story of seven individuals striving for a better life. By plotting these tales together, it argues that every aspect of our lives is controlled by one factor: the size of the gap between rich and poor. Wall Street psychologist Alden wants to make it to the top 1 per cent; KFC worker Leah from Richmond, Virginia, just wants to make it through the day; Rochelle in Newcastle wishes her work as a carer wasn’t looked down on so much; Jen in Sacramento, California, doesn’t even talk to the neighbours in her upscale gated community – they’ve made it clear to her she isn’t ‘their kind’.

With inequality now seen as one of most pressing issues facing countries today, this revealing documentary makes strong its case that the more equal a society the better that society is. Not just for the less well off, but for everyone in everything from crime rates, better educational achievement, better health outcomes and greater social cohesion. If you want to get your head around how societies as a whole succeed and fail those that live within their structures, this is seriously eye-opening stuff.