‘The Reunited States’ Review: Hopeful Moments in a Political War

The quelling of political warfare in the United States has to start somewhere. Topical in broad strokes yet frustratingly allergic to particulars, the well-meaning documentary “The Reunited States,” directed by Ben Rekhi and inspired by Mark Gerzon’s early-2016 book, “The Reunited States of America,” profiles people who have made a mission of listening to the other side.

David Leaverton, a former Republican strategist, regrets that he contributed to a toxic political climate; with his wife, Erin Leaverton, and children, he embarks on an RV trip to meet strangers and learn about their lives. Susan Bro, who says she didn’t pay attention to politics until her daughter, Heather Heyer, was killed in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, carries on Heyer’s civil rights message.

Rekhi shows Greg Orman, who ran for governor of Kansas as an independent in 2018, trying to convince voters that choosing a third-party option isn’t a waste. Steven Olikara, who promotes cooperation among millennial politicians — and is also a drummer — compares democracy, at its best, to “a boisterous jazz ensemble.”

The movie is filled with hopeful moments. The Leavertons deepen their understanding of racism and xenophobia. Near the end, Bro, sitting with the Leavertons, acknowledges that it’s hard for her to meet them.

Still, the film focuses on the admittedly tough work of bread-breaking, avoiding substantive policy debates that might interfere with the spirit of cordiality. Orman may be an independent, but he had stances, and the film largely keeps his platform offscreen. Furthermore, the camera’s potential role in mediating (or exacerbating) tensions goes unacknowledged.

The Reunited States
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes. Watch through virtual cinemas.

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