Six Degrees of Separation (film)

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Six Degrees of Separation is a 1993 film based on the John Guare play, starring Stockard Channing, Donald Sutherland and Will Smith. It explores the premise that everyone in the world is connected to everyone else in the world by a chain of only 6 acquaintances (see six degrees of separation).

The plot of the movie was inspired by the real-life story of David Hampton, a con man who managed to convince a number of people in the 1980s that he was the son of actor Sidney Poitier. After the film became a financial success, Hampton unsuccessfully sued for a share of the profits.

One of the most disturbing, yet provocative, themes in the film is its assertion that the ultra-rich privileged members of American society, at least in New York, live right next to people who are dirt poor and frequently victims of violent crime. In order to forget about these unpleasant aspects of modern urban life, the rich concentrate their considerable free time on collecting and discussing art and show little to no interest in any of the millions of people living in their city who are not members of their privileged class. Equally disturbing is how easily Smith is able to make his audience believe that he is the son of Sidney Poitier and, later, that they desperately want to earn the respect of their (ungrateful) children, or, more humorously, that they could so desperately want to have small roles in a film version of Cats.

The film features walk-ons by a number of New York society types inluding Kitty Carlisle Hart and the artist Chuck Close.

Like many great films, the directions that the plot take are highly unpredictable yet thought-provoking.

I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. I find that extremely comforting, that we're so close, but I also find it like Chinese water torture that we're so close because you have to find the right six people to make the connection. It's not just big names -- it's anyone. A native in a rain forest, a Tiero del Fuegan, an Eskimo. I am bound -- you are bound -- to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people. It's a profound thought -- how Paul found us, how to find the man whose son he claims to be, or perhaps is, although I doubt it. How everyone is a new door, opening into other worlds.

- character Ouisa Kittredge

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