On Tuesday night, students and faculty members gathered in the Dodd Center to view the screening of “Bring it to The Table,” a film by Emmy-Nominated Director Julie Winokur. UConn Dialogues member Caitlin Briody introduced Winokur as the storyteller who launched Talking Eyes Media.
She began by sharing with the audience the story behind the creation of the film. While speaking to her son about politics, who was 17-years-old at the time, he accused her of being intolerant. He pointed out to her that she had a hard time listening and understanding the point of view of people who had opposite views.
After feeling a little taken aback by his remarks, she started this film in order to find a way for people to better understand each other.
“You can try to explain your point of view to me and it will still sound dumb as hell,” one man featured in her film said. She aimed to “try to change the counterproductive, head-banging, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ ways of talking about politics.”
Throughout her film, she sets up a small table with a plaid table cloth and invites people, of all different backgrounds, to speak about politics.
The film shares different opinions on issues such as religion in politics, social programs and immigration policies from people who identify as conservative, liberal or somewhere in the middle.
As the film begins, Winokur shows that many people speak about religious values and family when talking about their political stance. For example, one woman that she spoke to said, “I have core Christian values so a lot of the time I vote in the right to life category.”
While visiting three different religious leaders, she heard different ideas about how religion plays into politics. The last concluded that, “President Obama is the president, not our pastor.”
Later in the film, Winokur put the footage of two different men speaking about their opinion on social programs side-by-side. Both men explain that they were raised by single mothers who struggled. While one grew up using social programs as a form of support and ended up going to Duke University, the other shared that he grew up with a strong sense of personal responsibility. Quoting his mother, he said, “Why would I ask society to pick up the pieces of the mess I created?”
In another part of the film, Winokur attends an event where immigrants protest immigration policies. She gets very different opinions at this event as well. One person said, “I have a hard stance on deportation for all [immigrants],” while another said, “no one wants to cross illegally but there is no other way and that’s what those who are against immigration don’t understand.”
She concluded the film by sharing that this film has helped her understand the other side, the side that she struggled to understand previously. When speaking to liberals she found herself defending conservatives and as conservatives attacked her she was now able to calmly discuss her ideas. As one of her interviewees said, “If we can come to the table with the idea that we both want what’s best [for the country] and then argue like hell on what is the best thing to do, then we can get up from the table as friends.”
After the film ended, Winokur asked the audience what stood out to them most. One member of the audience mentioned the man in the film who said, “If you made up your mind to what the answer is then the facts won’t matter anymore.” Winokur explains that people usually determine their political views on gut feelings about what is wrong or right based on the way they were raised and their experiences. She said that people are more likely to ignore facts “because they don’t align with what they believe in.”
After allowing two students to try the “Table Talk” method with her as the listener, Winokur encouraged the audience to try it amongst themselves. The audience was then supposed to ask someone close by if they believe that race is an issue in American and if so, what is the problem?
After about 15 minutes she asked people to share their experience with the method. Lexy Parrill, a UConn Graduate Student, said, “I like the setting of one person talking while the other listens because it forces you to actively listen without trying to form an argument.”
The main takeaway from Winokur’s film is that, no matter what we believe, we can have an open conversation with the other side.
“We can have different ideas but we can also understand where we are coming from,” Winokur said.
Emily Carbali is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.