Stars And Strife came about because writer-director David Smick became frustrated with how nasty politics had become. With this documentary, Smick hopes to explore the root cause of how this extreme partisanship came to be and discover a way out, if possible. He interviews a plethora of (former) politicians, experts, and activists to help form an overview of the history of the United States and evaluate why there seems to be so much more civil unrest and less compromise than ever before.
Now, Stars And Strife may sound like a one aisle ticket all the way, but Smick casts a wide net and implicates both parties. Hawk Newsome, the co-founder of the NY chapter of Black Lives Matter, describes how he was able to get on stage and speak at a pro-Trump rally. By the end of his speech, he built a bridge between their two ideologies, thus sparking a proper debate between both sides. Throughout this, Smick does not vilify one side or the other. He is much more interested in the underlying causes of why this person feels the government has let them down. The answer is far more complicated and frustrating than one would care to imagine.
Smick sits down with the founder of Home Depot, Kenneth Langone, to discuss income inequality and why that would anger people. Economist Alice Rivlin, to whom the movie is dedicated, discusses several reasons that politics is a big-money game and how good a return on investment it can be. Quite frankly, it is anger-inducing to see how much money and lobbyists influence politics, and something truly needs to be changed soon.
“…evaluate(s) why there seems to be so much more civil unrest and less compromise than ever before.”
The most interesting interview is with Derek Black, son of Don Black – the creator of Stormfront. Due to his upbringing, Derek adopted a white nationalist from a very young age. But, once he started college and met people who challenged his thinking, Derek began to change, eventually renouncing and beginning to make amends for his hateful rhetoric. His interview is interesting as it not only proves that there is a way to reevaluate one’s decisions and thinking, but also adds in a personal story that is a microcosm of the overall point of Stars And Strife.
Smick fills all the necessary exposition (there is a lot of complicated machinery at play) with helpful animatics hosted by a most dapper cat. The documentary is about some weighty subjects, but these segments offer a pleasant respite with some goofy levity. They also add to what can only be described as the movie’s zippy pacing. Despite the seriousness of the topics at hand, the pacing is incredibly swift, moving through interviews, animated moments, and news/ archive footage with ease.
Stars And Rife hones in on the seemingly impossible to navigate gulf that divides citizens of the United States of America. By going after both sides and providing crucial context to how the country has wound up here, Smick lays the foundation for a bridge to help heal. Watching this movie is only the first step; the rest is on us citizens, but taking that first step is vital. What are you waiting for?
"…may sound like a one aisle ticket all the way, but Smick... implicates both parties."