Abramorama Acquires Documentary ‘Join Or Die’ For North American Theatrical Release

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EXCLUSIVE: Abramorama has acquired North American theatrical distribution rights to the award-winning documentary Join or Die, a film about community in America, the loneliness epidemic and Robert Putnam’s famed “Bowling Alone” research on civic decline and renewal. Directed by sister-brother team Rebecca Davis (Netflix’s Explained) and Pete Davis (author of Dedicated: The Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing).

Join or Die follows the story of America’s civic unraveling through the lens of legendary social scientist Robert Putnam, whose Bowling Alone research into American community decline may hold the answers to our democracy’s present crisis. The pic from Develan Street Films features conversations with Hillary Clinton, Pete Buttigieg, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Jane McAlevey, Glenn Loury, Raj Chetty and Priya Parker, among others. Watch the trailer here:

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Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam is America’s pre-eminent political scientist and one of the most widely read and cited social scientists living today. Author of 14 books translated into 20 languages, his work focuses on asking big questions about American society and deploying immense, creative studies and analyses to unlock answers.

The Bowling Alone research — which demonstrated that levels of American community connections were in decline over the past half-century — rocketed Putnam to national fame in the late 1990s, earning him the moniker “poet laureate of civil society” and the ear of presidents, religious leaders and tech founders over the ensuing decades. In 2012, President Obama awarded Putnam the National Humanities Medal, the nation’s highest honor for contributions to the humanities. As more Americans turn on to the reality of our social isolation crisis, a consistent drumbeat of media interest in revisiting Putnam’s work has grown.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, there has been a 40% decline in the number of Americans who attended one public meeting on town or school affairs each year, a 50% decline in the number of Americans who took any leadership role in any local organization each year, a 50% decline in the number of times Americans attended a club meeting each year, and even a 60% decline in the number of picnics Americans attended annually.

Join or Die updates Putnam’s findings from two decades ago to share the continued decline in community life, including a 35% decline in religious congregation membership and a 66% decline in union membership from the 1960s to the 2020s. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 43% of Americans belong to no community groups — and two-thirds of Americans belong to either none or only one group. The film also points out the grave health effects of these declines: Your chance of dying in the next year is cut in half by joining one group.

“We are honored to bring Join or Die to audiences across North America amidst an election year when Americans are exploring their personal engagement in upholding our democracy,” Abramorama CEO Karol Martesko-Fenster said. “Rebecca and Pete’s familiarity with the subject matter is evident and their storytelling prowess will surely resonate with audiences of all ages.”

Said the Davis siblings: “The message of our film is right there in the title: Our personal and civic health is dependent on our participation in public and communal life. We hope that revisiting Putnam’s groundbreaking civic findings—and spotlighting the creative local groups acting in the spirit of them—can serve to inspire viewers to do what needs to be done to save our democracy: Join up!”

Abramorama will kick off the theatrical run in July across the United States and Canada to follow.

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