When Filmmakers Asked Americans To Answer 50 Questions, They Found A Common Theme

"I just wish we would do an exercise like this as a nation."

Brave New Films, a new media company based in Culver City, California, recruited 40 diverse strangers in Los Angeles via Craigslist, and gathered them in a warehouse back in May to film a moving and timely video, which you can watch below.

As part of the experiment, the participants were grouped by their ethnicities and asked a series of 50 questions that ranged from fun and playful to personal and poignant. Some of the queries included: Had you ever been bullied? Is anyone in your family currently incarcerated? Have you had sex in the past week? Are you in love right now?

Participants who answered "yes" were instructed to step forward towards a wall and pose for a photo with the newly formed group, while those who answered "no" stayed behind in their respective boxes.



"That was it. No judgment. No dialogue. Just this slow, beautiful dance, this coming together, splitting apart, joining and rejoining," Robert Greenwald, the founder and president of Brave New Films, and the producer of the short film, wrote in a blog post for HuffPost about the project.

The piece, which Greenwald tells A Plus was inspired by a Danish advertisement, was meant to be inspirational and show "the connectivity between all of us, the bottom-line ways in which being human is a shared experience regardless of all other experiences."

In formulating the questions, Greenwald says there was no subject he and his team were explicitly unwilling to broach. "We tried to carefully balance questions so that we were trying to find the universal aspects of the human of experience on the one hand, but also to respect the fact that we have truly different experiences of being who we are — who ever we are — at this time, in this place." 

He adds, "The question 'Do you distrust police officers?' for example, turns out to have been one of these. No matter how much we have in common, we do not always get treated in the same way and that is as important to understand as that which we do share."

As a participant named Ali put it, "I just wish we would do an exercise like this as a nation." And as it turns out, Ali wasn't alone in his belief.

Ali, one of the project's participants.
Ali, one of the project's participants. Brave New Films

"Overall, people were amazed – I think as we were in making the film – at how something so simple could evoke such strong feelings — feelings we have all been looking for ways to have more of lately, like empathy and hope," Greenwald explains, adding the response to the film on social media has been very positive.

Another participant, an interfaith minister named Reverend Ahmondra McClendon, told The Washington Post that the question that resonated most with her was "Do you feel we are stronger united than divided?" According to McClendon, this was the only question for which every person in the room answered yes, proving there is still reason enough to have hope in these trying, uncertain times.

Though Greenwald knows the film likely won't see people changing their entire belief systems, he does feel as though it has the power to have an impact on society. "We think we really did manage to somehow catch hope on film, which at this time, for many Americans, is a scarce commodity," he concludes to A Plus. "I hope people will take this in, and move forward with hope, continuing the fight against all that is wrong but with the knowledge that it is, in fact, possible for all to be right."

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