'Bring it to the Table' coming to Odessa

Associated Press
Staff Writer

Documentary filmmaker Julie Winokur will screen her work “Bring it to the Table” at 6:30 p.m., April 7 in room LL001 of the Library Lecture Center at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, 4901 E. University Blvd. The event is a Leadership Roundup, presented by the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute and UTPB College of Arts and Sciences. JBS Executive Director Robert Brescia said he would introduce Winokur and moderate a Q&A session.
The concept for “Bring it to the Table” came about because in 2012, Winokur’s son, who was 17 at the time, told her that she was the “most intolerant” person he knew when it came to politics.
“It just stopped me in my tracks because I thought I was tolerant. I thought I was paying attention, listening to all sides and giving it a fair shake,” Winokur said in a telephone interview.
She added that she also was “very disturbed” by the divisiveness of politics in and outside of the United States.
“We have deeply entrenched views. Most of us are part of the problem because we’re not listening. That was the catalyst to travel across the country with this small table and invite people to sit down and share their political beliefs,” Winokur said.
She said she worked on the project for about five years and has been screening the film for less than a year. Winokur said she attended both the Republican and Democratic conventions in 2012.
“The whole point of the journey was to try and understand why people believe what they believe,” said Winokur, who lives in Montclair, N.J.
She added that it also was a chance to ask questions and absorb what people were saying, rather than having debates or “heated altercations.”
“I want to know if people with different political views have good ideas,” Winokur said.
Something that Winokur found interesting is that people seem to have adopted others’ political spin as their own.
"That’s really surprising because we all like to believe we are following our own instinct and coming up with original ideas, but if you really stop and listen to yourself, it would surprise you how much you’re echoing what’s been fed to you by a PR machine,” she said.
Winokur added that she found some conservatives crossing over to more liberal ideas and people who identified as liberal who were more conservative on some issues. An example for conservatives, she said, was feelings on gay marriage, and for liberals, those who didn’t agree with gun control.
Working on the film, Winokur said she saw a recurring story that political partisanship was getting worse.
“So where’s the limit where you just break it all apart so you can actually begin with issues and begin with common ground and then figure out how to solve problems?” she asked. “What’s happening is the rhetoric becomes the problem. I don’t have any delusions that I’m going to be heard by the people in Washington. Frankly, I don’t think they’re leading anymore; they’re following.”
“Citizen to citizen, we can reclaim civility,” Winokur said.
She said making “Bring it to the Table” has enabled her not to dismiss points of view that she doesn’t agree with.
“It definitely has me respecting people on a different level because it’s way too easy to dismiss people you don’t agree with as being ignorant and uninformed. It’s easy to write off what people have to say with one word,” Winokur said.
When she’s not taking note of political views, Winokur said she’s made documentaries on everything from access to health care to the Syrian refugee crisis.
Brescia said he found “Bring it to the Table” while searching for civil political discourse on the web several months ago. He viewed the film and then spoke to her and her team.
“The reason we’re having her here is … we are the throes of a very bizarre campaign on both sides. It’s a … presidential campaign year. It’s far from civil. It’s not showing signs of slowing down or correcting itself,” Brescia said.
Since JBS promotes youth taking on leadership roles, Brescia added that he wants to remind the general public that the current election-year rhetoric is “not really a role model for our youth.”
Brescia added that JBS Public Leadership Institute and the College of Arts and Sciences are presenting “Bring it to the Table” because they both believe the event will make a good run-up to “Election 2016: Are You Voting for a Party, a Person or a Principle?” a Shepperd Institute Distinguished Lecture at 7 p.m. April 28 at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center, 1310 N. Farm to Market Road 1788.
That free event will feature Fox News political analyst Juan Williams, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, former Florida U.S. Rep. Allen West and Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Mechler, according to the JBS website.