Experiencing Interruptions?

Divided We Fall

In the spring of 2011, Wisconsinites staged one of the largest sustained protests in US history. Divided We Fall traces the genesis of the historic Uprising that united tens of thousands of people in a weeks-long protest and takes a critical look at the tensions that challenged the movement’s solidarity.

Our film combines original in-depth interviews with dramatic citizen-produced video and photos to uncover passionate disagreements in the movement about how decisions should be made, which strategies to pursue, and the limits of business-as-usual between labor and the Democratic party.

Our interviewees include graduate teaching assistants at the center of the movement as well as labor leaders, scholars and pundits such as the late Marty Beil (executive director, AFSCME Council 24), Frank Emspak (Workers Independent News), Professor Katherine Cramer (author, The Politics of Resentment) and Matthew Rothschild, long-time editor of the Progressive magazine.

Divided We Fall gets beneath the surface of the mass protests, chants, and rallies to shed light on what really happened in Madison in 2011.

  • Katherine M Acosta
  • Katherine M Acosta
  • Katherine M Acosta
  • Richard Acklin
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 30 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    June 30, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    70,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Premiere
    United States
    July 21, 2016
  • Sundance Theater - Madison
    Madison, Wisconsin
    United States
    October 20, 2016
  • Driftless Film Festival
    Mineral Point, Wisconsin
    United States
    November 4, 2016
  • Wisconsin Film Fest
    United States
    April 2, 2017
  • Reel Work May Day Labor Film Festival
    Santa Cruz, CA
    United States
    April 23, 2017
  • Laborfest San Francisco
    San Francisco
    United States
    July 10, 2017
Director Biography - Katherine M Acosta

Katherine M Acosta holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has a passion for documentary film and learned through teaching that students were most readily engaged in sociological analysis through film. Storytelling, after all, is the way that humans have shared history and knowledge for millennia. Divided We Fall is her first film.

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Director Statement

Nonviolent mass insurgencies are rare, spontaneous, and unpredictable creatures. The trick is, how to make the most of one when it emerges? The 2011 Wisconsin Uprising was one such beautiful creature, a largely organic movement that united tens of thousands of people in a weeks-long public protest.

In the opening sequence of Divided We Fall, long-time editor of the Progressive magazine, Matthew Rothschild, says, “I waited and waited for the people to rise up. And suddenly, they were rising up!”

Rothschild’s words expressed my feelings – and those of many activists. It was a thrilling political moment, as thousands of activists and ordinary citizens converged on Madison, rolled up their sleeves, and began building resistance. The positive energy, good will and camaraderie of those days is indescribable – and made our ultimate defeat that much more painful.

How could so many well-intentioned, creative, politically engaged, thoughtful citizens work so hard, yet fail to achieve our goal? What can we learn from the experience, so that next time the people are inspired to rise up, we are prepared to win?

These are the questions that motivated me to make Divided We Fall. Although my training and experience is as a sociologist, I thought film would be a better medium for this story. A long-time documentary film and film fest aficionado, I had always wanted to try my hand at filmmaking.

My goal was to stake out some middle ground between art and sociology. I wanted to tell an engrossing story, yet also to convey critical analysis. The graduate teaching assistants in sociology who are our primary interviewees were ideally positioned to help us create this fusion. As scholar-activists, they were at the center of the action, but are also trained to analyze sociological phenomena.

Theirs and other interviews, combined with dramatic citizen-produced video and photos, create a compelling narrative intended to initiate a conversation about how various factions in social movements can work together for positive social change.