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Hot Docs ’14: World premiere ‘Divide in Concord’ floats plastic bottle debate

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A small-town battle over bottled water is the subject of “Divide in Concord,” a self-funded documentary that has its world premiere Saturday during Toronto’s annual Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.

Jean Hill is an 85-year-old citizen of Concord, Massachusetts who, in 2010 and 2011, presented a bylaw to the town council that would ban the sale of water in plastic bottles. She did so after learning from her grandson the disastrous effects the empty bottles have on the environment.

While her proposals were defeated, Hill started a rowdy debate that gained national attention and inspired the documentary. What began as a town hall discussion about plastic bottle usage led to a clash of ideals over personal freedom. Local resident and present-day Boston Herald columnist Adriana Cohen drew media attention to the cause and soon the heavy guns of The International Bottled Water Association were involved.

The filmmakers steer clear of endorsing either side of the argument but give historical significance to Hill’s passionate campaign in a town famous as the home of both the American Revolution and Henry David Thoreau. Many Hill supporters considered her bylaw revolutionary and symbolic of the town’s history. War re-enactors are featured prominently in the film, as are several Concord residents, local merchants, the Town Moderator, Town Manager and a Thoreau scholar.

Among those attending the premiere will be director Kris Kaczor, founder of Brooklyn-based 750 Productions and director/editor of several documentaries, acclaimed shorts, national ads, music videos and fringe video art. “Divide in Concord” is his first film to be shown at Hot Docs.

“Hot Docs is one of the world's most respected documentary film festivals, and we are honored to have found the perfect home for our world premiere,” said Kaczor when asked to comment about participation in Hot Docs. “We feel our story is one that should be heard by a large population and the passion and hard work done by the festival has clearly become a shepherd for this goal.”

Kaczor considers Hot Docs as a suitable launching pad for “Divide in Concord,” one that will give the film the life it deserves.

Visit Hot Docs for screening schedule and ticket availability.

The festival continues until May 4.

See you at the movies.

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