“You can’t wait for the leadership to catch up to the people.” — Harriet Rowan, Capitol occupation organizer
About Our Film
During those brief periods in which people are roused to indignation, when they are prepared to defy the authorities to whom they ordinarily defer… [their] leaders usually do not escalate the momentum of the people’s protests. —Frances Fox Piven & Richard Cloward
Nonviolent mass insurgencies are rare, spontaneous, and unpredictable creatures. The trick is, how to make the most of one when it emerges? The 2011 Wisconsin Uprising was one such beautiful creature, a largely organic movement that united tens of thousands of people in a weeks-long public protest.
Long-time editor of the Madison-based Progressive magazine, Matt Rothschild, called the Wisconsin Uprising “the single most exhilarating political experience in my life.” He was not alone. It’s hard now to describe the spirit of the protests – the positive energy and good will and camaraderie. Defeat seemed impossible; how could we fail?
How did we fail?
Divided We Fall traces the genesis of the largest sustained protest in US history – and takes a critical look at the tensions that challenged the movement’s solidarity. We combine original in-depth interviews with dramatic citizen-produced video and photos from a wide variety of sources to create a compelling narrative of resistance to the attack on collective bargaining for public workers – the first item in the austerity agenda advanced by Governor Scott Walker’s administration.
Our interviewees include graduate teaching assistants at the center of the movement as well as labor leaders, scholars and pundits such as the late Marty Beil (executive director, AFSCME Council 24), Frank Emspak (Workers Independent News), Professor Katherine Cramer (author, The Politics of Resentment) and Matthew Rothschild, long-time editor of the Progressive magazine.
Divided We Fall gets beneath the surface of the mass protests, chants, and rallies to shed light on what really happened in Madison in 2011 – with the aim of starting a dialogue about how we might succeed next time.
We are fortunate on our project to combine sociological expertise with experienced filmmaking. Katherine Acosta, director, producer, and writer for the project holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has a passion for documentary film and learned through teaching that students were most readily engaged in sociological analysis through film. Storytelling, after all, is the way that humans have shared history and knowledge for millennia. Divided We Fall is her first film.
Richard Acklin, her partner in life and filmmaking, serves as co-producer and production sound engineer.
The Downtown Dailies/blue studio team, Gretta Wing Miller and Aarick Beher, bring decades of experience to post-production. Gretta has been a film & video editor and instructor since 1978, working mostly on documentary television series and specials (American Masters, National Geographic) and independent features. She has taught film editing at Hunter College (CUNY), Final Cut Pro tutorials, and Digital Filmmaking in the College for Kids program through the UW-Madison Education Outreach.
Aarick Beher is a life-long musician and music producer, working with many of the most creative artists and song writers in Madison, Wisconsin.
Gretta and Aarick have collaborated as Picture and Sound on many projects since 1999. They currently fund their independent projects by creating affordable documentary and advocacy video and audio for independent artists and non-profit organizations.