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Interview: Kris Kaczor talks Divide in Concord

We spoke with Kris Kaczor about his film Divide in Concord which will be showing as part of Hot Docs 2014. The film follows an elderly resident of historic Concord Massachusetts (home of the first environmentalist Henry David Thoreau and the first conflict of the American Revolution) as she attempts to have a bylaw passed that would ban the sale of single-serving bottled water.

How did you first hear about Jean Hill and what made you want to tell her story?

I first heard about Jean inside The New York Times. The article was on the first time that she attempted to get the bylaw passed. It eventually did pass the first year but was not accepted by the Attorney General because it was not written as bylaw which made it unenforceable. That brought back it back the second year and they failed but that was my official meeting with Jean to read about her in The New York Times.

So I called her up and she said, ‘Hey we’re going back for a third time if you want to make a documentary’.

What are your own personal views on plastic consumption in America?

We really attempt with the film to make an objective documentary. Kind of going the route of Thoreau, having more power with something that tells truth rather than opinion. And that is actually our objective with the film; to raise awareness of the fate of Thoreau’s objective stance.

Besides the reasons stated on camera, what other reasons do you feel made the residents of Concord initially so against Jean’s bill?

We did try to state pretty much all of the opposition’s opinions through various voices but a large portion comes down to the fate of the environment versus freedom of choice. We saw those as kind of a summary of two sides.

As far as specific other opposing notes, there definitely was the idea that a ban will cause a trickle-down effect of more bans. That was actually a desirable effect for Jean’s supporters. In Jean’s words, she says, she wants this to be, “a stone thrown in the water the rings going around it and once Concord does this other towns will follow”.

Adrianna’s arguments against the bill all seem to circle around people being told what to give their kids to drink. She quotes the Declaration of Independence a lot. Is it just that she doesn’t understand what Jean is trying say or do or is it just about having power?

She understands and she’s definitely heard the arguments of Jean and her supporters over the years. Adrianna, she definitely listens she just very openly disagrees for the reason of freedom of choice and freedom of commerce.

We don’t get too much back story on Jean. Is there anything you can tell us about her Jean when she was younger? She’s very persistent and strong-willed so I’m just wondering if there’s anything in her past that speaks to that.

Her first job she worked at a parachute factory in Times Square. And she was 15 or 16. She saw that the women working weren’t getting lunch breaks and went to the union officer to protest. They said get lost kid and she said that was her first clue-in to injustice and that she would want to stand against that.

How did people from outside Concord feel about Jean’s bill? Did she have supporters in other states or countries? Was she receiving emails or calls of encouragement?

Definitely. There is a town in Australia called Bungadoo. They have a voluntary ban on bottled water there and as part of their research they actually looked to Jean Hill as this kind of hero.

Obviously Jean had some close friends that were helping her but is there anything else that you felt was keeping her strong for those three years?

She had perseverance that is true. You know I was listening to her through the Lavaliere microphone as she would go from the car to the house and she was struggling. It was not easy, this whole process was not easy for her. Her body hurt and she kept going.

She kept on saying she was doing it because she felt it was the right thing to do.

What is Jean doing now?

She recently fell. She broke her hip and is in rehab.

How long ago did she break her hip?

It was a couple of months ago. There is a potential that she is going to try – with the help of her son John – to potentially get to Hot Docs.

Would she be doing a post or pre-screening Q&A?

Yes that would be the ideal situation but if it doesn’t happen we do have Jill Appel, Jean’s main help throughout the entire campaign.

Since Jean’s bill has passed are there now other towns on America that are trying to get a similar bill passed?

San Francisco passed theirs shortly after Concord, Harvard students voted to ban bottled water. It’s definitely a growing movement.