America ReFramed

Divide in Concord

Season 04  Episode 7

In Concord, Massachusetts residents hold fast to their town’s legendary status; it is the site of the initial conflict which led to the American Revolution. Concord was also home to Henry David Thoreau, a proponent of the environmental preservation movement. DIVIDE IN CONCORD is an engaging tale about a contemporary debate: individual freedom versus collective responsibility, and how this relates to American democracy. The Declaration of Independence states that man has certain unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But in today’s society where is the line drawn between consumer freedom and responsibility?

Driving the film’s narrative and the town’s democratic debate is a fiery 84-year-old widow and mother of four, Jean Hill. Inspired by her environmentally conscious grandson, she presents a bylaw to ban the sale of single-serve plastic water bottles. In Concord, one way of exercising democracy is through a town meeting. The forum, a centuries old tradition, gives the right to an individual citizen to bring a measure up to vote. Many local townspeople don’t agree with Hill’s ideas, and she has been defeated in past town hall meetings. One opponent, Ms. Adriana Cohen, observes, “…When a person no longer has the liberty to decide for themselves and their children what products they're going to put in their body and what products they’re going to buy, we no longer live in a free society.”

The grandmother-turned-activist enlists the support of Jill Appel, a Harvard University Law School graduate. Together they forge a new coalition, but can one grandmother take on the bottled water industry?