Common Grounds



In an age of hyperpolarization, the UVA Center for Politics documentary "Common Grounds?" examines the political climate on a college campus, at the Grounds of the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson. Through interviews with students from across the political spectrum, and a group dialogue between some of these students, the film asks a simple question: "Can tomorrow's generation find common ground?"


Biography: Raed is a dedicated storyteller with a global outlook. Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, his life has been one long cross-cultural experience, sparking in him a desire to tell stories that build empathy and understanding. He is graduating in May 2022 with a Foreign Affairs degree from the University of Virginia, where he was privileged to direct, film, and edit the first ever student-produced documentary for Dr. Larry Sabato’s UVA Center for Politics, “Common Grounds?” Produced during the pandemic, the documentary that investigates the political climate among students at UVA and brings into dialogue students from across the political spectrum.

Director Statement: It was summer of my junior year of high school, and not very long after I had started working on my college applications, that the Grounds of the University of Virginia became the stage for the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville (August 11-12). That was the event that Biden used to launch his presidential campaign, and it all started right at the heart of our campus. A few years on, the ripples are still felt in a tense and divided political college climate. As an intern at the UVA Center for Politics, founded by Dr. Larry Sabato, I suggested that we create a short, student-produced documentary interviewing students from across the political spectrum. Do students at the university Thomas Jefferson founded want to find common ground? What would that look like? This film seeks to start a conversation. I grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, in a society plagued by sectarian divisions. The US political scene was a new context, a new experience of the same old human instinct to build walls and shun people of "other tribes". The hardest part about building a bridge is deciding to start. It is my hope that, through this documentary, audiences can walk away thinking about what kind of person they want to be, and what conversations they want to seek out and maybe even initiate! That's why the film's title is a question: do we want to find common ground on these Grounds?

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