Divide is a 21 minute, HD documentary film by directors Michael T. Miller and Maura Ugarte. It was completed in late 2011 and features union organizer Sebert Pertee and United Mine Workers of America president Cecil Roberts.

Sebert canvassing in his local coal mining community


Deep in the mountains of West Virginia, the hard-fought victories of the labor movement have been worn away. That is, until retired miner and union organizer Sebert Pertee decides to confront divisions of race and class rekindled by the 2008 presidential campaign.


When it comes to politics, retired coal miner Sebert Pertee sees one big problem: the rich keep getting richer while working people lose ground. As he canvasses for pro-union candidates in 2008, he finds his community more focused on the race of the Democratic presidential nominee than on their own interests.

In McDowell County, West Virginia, long a union and Democratic Party stronghold, the battle for white working-class voters is taking an ugly turn. As politicians and pundits fan the racial flames, Sebert finds that race-baiting has long been a tried and true tactic to divide the miners. He’s determined to change the conversation, even if it rankles his neighbors. Race-baiting and union values collide in this short film, as Sebert struggles to take the fight to the real enemy.


Appalachian people, used to having their shortcomings highlighted by outsiders, are provided here with an opportunity to tell their story and be inspired and challenged by their own history and successes. Viewers from Appalachia may find DIVIDE a refreshing change from the often reductive analysis of the area. However, Appalachians are not the only audience for this film. During the election, Appalachia became a centerpiece of the national dialogue on race. This film continues that discussion. By including and recontextualizing news media about the election, Appalachians and income inequality, the film speaks to politically engaged Americans throughout the country. By focusing on Sebert Pertee, a unique character who contradicts many stereotypes about West Virginians, the film challenges people from outside the area to reconsider their perspectives. In essence, we hope DIVIDE highlights how the the divisions in McDowell County reflect the greater American struggle for progress.


MICHAEL T. MILLER (Co-Director, Producer, Cinematographer)

Michael T. Miller

Michael T. Miller, MFA American U., is a documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and Emmy-nominated television producer based in Washington , DC. His diverse background in media production includes work for feature films, television, and the web. In 2004, he was hired by John Kerry’s presidential campaign to create and produce a web series entitled “On the Road with John Kerry” that chronicled Sen. Kerry’s travels across the country. Soon after, he began producing and shooting for MTV’s documentary series True Life, including shows dealing with youth poverty and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Later, Michael was hired by Debt Aids Trade Africa to shoot a PSA about Brad Pitt’s journey to Ethiopia and South Africa as part of the ONE Campaign.

Michael has worked at the Center for Social Media, Appalshop media arts center, and given speeches on documentary ethics. He has produced documentary pieces for CurrentTV, screened work at the True False Film Festival, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions gallery, and recently won a CINE Golden Eagle Award for his documentary Through Fire and Water about an Iraq War veteran navigating a life changing injury.

Originally from West Virginia , Michael has worked with fellow WV director Morgan Spurlock and was recently a producer on the feature film Outrage by Oscar-nominated director Kirby Dick. He continues to produce for MTV, PBS, HBO, and Discovery while directing Think Out Loud Productions LLC.

MAURA UGARTE (Co-Director, Editor)

Maura Ugarte

Maura Ugarte is a filmmaker, editor, producer and teacher based in Washington DC. Maura’s work is focused on community building and how media can be used to bridge economic, racial and cultural divides. Her documentary projects have been screened nationally and internationally; highlights include screenings at the True/False Film Festival, Palm Springs International and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions gallery. She has produced commissioned work for CurrentTV, and recently won a CINE Golden Eagle Award for her documentary, Through Fire and Water, on a severely injured Iraq War veteran and his experiences after returning home. Among the films she has edited, Waiting for Spring won the 2003 International Documentary Association’s Student Documentary Achievement Award for best documentary, and was distributed by the Dongsoong Art Centre. She has edited documentaries with award winning filmmakers such as Sherry Jones and Charlene Gilbert.

From 2005 to 2008, Maura received a fellowship from the Center for Social Media, where she produced documentaries and ran the outreach project for their documentary and fair use project. She has traveled nationally, conducting workshops and serving on panels at conferences on fair use and documentary film.

Maura has an MFA degree in Film and Media Arts from American University, and a BA from Columbia College Chicago in film and video.