JOIN OR DIE – A Review by Jenn Rohm

JOIN OR DIE – A Review by Jenn Rohm

Recently I was researching the trend of solo living and the impact on an individual limiting their interactions with others as much as possible.  Being a single person who had little to no in-person contact with others during the pandemic and seeing the changes it made to me, I found myself relating to that lifestyle.  Of course, this was now the perfect time to watch a documentary that supports the need to join groups, clubs, professional organizations, etc.   

Join or Die is a feature-length documentary delving into the philosophy being studied by social scientist Robert Putnam. The three primary questions that are the focus of the film are What makes democracy work? Why is American democracy in crisis? and What can we do about it?

Known for his groundbreaking book “Bowling Alone” Putnam speaks about the need for civic belonging.  His wife shared a newspaper article with him about membership in the local PTA dropping.  This led to a conversation at his local bowling alley where he learned about the impact of having more people showing up to bowl, yet a drop in the number of bowlers belonging to a league.  The bowling alley makes its profit from food and beverage services.  When people are in a group to bowl together, more socializing takes place and more money is spent.  Digging into other data it isn’t the money but the social piece that is the concern.  Gathering and joining created trust in others and being respectful of one another.  Members learned skills to help them grow into leadership positions in their jobs.  Clubs* also led to changes such as women’s right to vote.   

Siblings, Rebecca Davis and Pete Davis are the Directors, Producers, and Writers who have created a film for those of us that are not into social or political sciences that need to be part of the change.  This isn’t about returning to the lifestyles of the 50s, it is an opening for how clubs grow and improve social capital to be accessible, inclusive, and something people want to be part of. 

Helping keep the attention and interest of viewers, the use of colorful graphics, photos of club membership, and political cartoons has been used.  It does remind me of the opening credits of Saved by the Bell and Alton Brown’s Good Eats.

I now find myself wondering what interest I have, that I would like to explore further in a group setting as opposed to going down a google rabbit hole and researching in my home by myself.

* The term club is being used as a catch-all term for clubs, organizations, social groups, secret societies, sports leagues, fandoms, parishioners, etc.

Bentonville Film Festival feature entry


Director: Pete Davis and Rebecca Davis

Written By: Pete Davis and Rebecca Davis

Cast: Robert Putnam, Pete Buttigieg, Raj Chetty, Hillary Clinton

MPAA Rating: Not yet rated.

Genres: Documentary

Selig Rating: 3 stars

Runtime: 1h 39m

Movie Site: Join or Die website

Trailer: Join or Die Trailer


The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie/show, well worth the time and price.

4 Stars – Good movie/show

3 Stars – OK movie/show

2 Stars – Well there was nothing else…

1 Star – Total waste of time.

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