The 2024 unRival Award Winner:
"Join or Die"

The poster of the documentary "Join or Die"
Graphic: "The 2024 Justice Film Festival unRival Award Winner"
We are pleased to announce the recipient of the first-ever unRival Award, "Join or Die"!
The unRival Award is given annually at the Justice Film Festival to a film in any category which powerfully shows the beauty, difficulty, and value of pursuing justice and peace for all people through nonrivalrous and nonviolent ways of being. 

The 2024 unRival Award winner was announced at the Join or Die screening at Justice Film Festival in New York City, February 24, 2024. 

These are divided and difficult times, no doubt, but how did we get here? And is there a way out? "Join or Die" offers the hope that, yes, there is! We are delighted to honor this film as a powerful affirmation of the joy and power of belonging.

"Join or Die" is a film about why you should join a club — and why the fate of America may depend on it.

In this feature documentary, follow the half-century story of America’s civic unraveling through the journey of legendary social scientist Robert Putnam, whose groundbreaking “Bowling Alone” research into America’s decades-long decline in community connections could hold the answers to our democracy’s present crisis. 

Flanked by influential fans and scholars — from Hillary Clinton, Pete Buttigieg, and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to Eddie Glaude Jr., Raj Chetty, and Priya Parker — as well as inspiring groups building community in neighborhoods across the country, join Bob as he explores three urgent civic questions: 

  • What makes democracy work? 
  • Why is American democracy in crisis? 
  • And, most importantly…what can we do about it?

Meet the Directors

Headshot of Rebecca Davis, director of "Join or Die."
Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis is a director and producer based in New York City. She was a senior producer with NBC News for nearly a decade, where her work focused on social movements, environmental and economic justice, and community innovators. She has produced for HBO, VICE, and A&E—and was the supervising producer for Season 2 of Vox’s hit Netflix show Explained. Join or Die is her first feature film.

Headshot of Pete Davis, director of "Join or Die."
Pete Davis

Pete Davis is a writer a—and a former student of Robert Putnam’s. He is the author of Dedicated: The Case for Commitment in An Age of Infinite Browsing. He is the co-founder of the Democracy Policy Network, a policy organization focused on raising up ideas that deepen democracy.

Visual from the documentary "Join or Die"
A Statement from Rebecca Davis

Henry David Thoreau once said: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” It is important to tell stories about the various “branches of evil,” but occasionally, it is also useful to help orient the public to the roots of our various social problems. As the unraveling of our social fabric has accelerated in the COVID era, the public is searching for fundamental explanations of our civic decline: Why don’t our politics or government work? Why can’t we see eye-to-eye with our neighbors? What accounts for the gap between the wealthy, empowered few and the impoverished, disempowered many?

The answers to these questions are complex—and no single scholar can definitively answer any of them. But Harvard professor and Bowling Alone author Robert Putnam has, perhaps more than anyone else living today, made great strides at clarifying our understanding of the roots of our civic unraveling. Even better, he is a master at translating his trailblazing social science research into engaging stories. For decades, he has explained to rapt audiences around the country—from VFW halls to the Oval Office—his illuminating findings, but the entirety of his work has never been featured in a documentary film with the potential to reach a much wider audience.

With Join or Die, we aim to introduce Putnam’s research on the importance of community to democracy and the decline in American community engagement over the past decades to millions more Americans—and especially to young Americans who were not alive to experience Bowling Alone going viral decades ago.

To bring Putnam’s message up to date, we have paired his story with figures from various sectors—from politics and economics to public health and urban design—that have been influenced by his ideas. And to bring Putnam’s message down to earth, we have weaved throughout the film historic home videos and contemporary community profiles featuring the types of civic organizations that Putnam has found to be foundational to a healthy democracy. Together, we hope that they not only help promote the public understanding of an important field in social science—but that they also shed light on what Americans across the country can do with this newfound understanding.

With the death knell of our national unity tolling from every corner of our public 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!

Visual from the documentary "Join or Die"

Hold onto hope with us.

When we resist rivalry together, there is hope for peace.

By contributing as little as $25, you join us in supporting peacebuilders who are bringing creative solutions to the world’s toughest problems. Your donation funds leadership formation programs, research, and resources for those resisting rivalry with you.