Please vote for me
Director Weijun Chen; China 2007
Wuhan is a city in central China about the size of London, and it is here that director Weijun Chen has conducted an experiment in democracy. A grade 3 class at Evergreen Primary School has their first encounter with democracy by holding an elec- tion to select a Class Monitor. Eight-year-olds com- pete against each other for the coveted position,
abetted and egged on by teachers and doting parents. Elections in China take place only within the Com- munist Party, but recently millions of Chinese voted in their version of Pop Idol. The purpose of Weijun Chen’s experiment is to determine how, if democracy came to China, it would be received. Is democracy a universal value that fits human nature? Do elections inevitably lead to manipulation? Please Vote for Me is a portrait of a society and a town through a school, its children and its families.
Looking for the Revolution
Director: Rodrigo Vazquez; Bolivia 2007
Che Guevara died in southern Bolivia 40 years ago while trying to ignite the sparks of revolution throughout South America. His death at the hands of Bolivian Rangers, trained and financed by the US Government, marked the beginning of the cocaine era in Bolivia. Pressed by the masses who gave him a massive mandate, the first indigenous president, ex-coca leaf farmer Evo Morales has nationalised the oil industry and passed laws on agrarian reform. All the election speeches, which resulted in his landslide victory, sounded quite revolutionary, as did the iconography. But a closer look reveals that the old system is pretty much alive inside the new one. Corruption, nepotism and old-fashioned populism are at the core of this movement. The more Evo does to create employment, the more the landowners conspire against him and paralyse Bolivia’s economy. As a result, no jobs are created and the poor press Evo even harder. Thus a cycle of tension threatens to crush the country and the indigenous revolution as well. Looking for the Revolution is about the inner workings of that tension as witnessed by the characters of the film. The landowners and the indigenous movement are still wrestling for power and neither has claimed victory yet. Ultimately, the search for the revolution that Che Guevara tried to start in Bolivia is now in Morales’ hands.
Taxi to the Dark Side
Director Alex Gibney; USA 2007
Over one hundred prisoners have died in suspicious circumstances in U.S. custody during the war on terror. Taxi to the Dark Side takes an in-depth look at one case: an Afghan taxi driver called Dilawar who was considered an honest and kind man by the people of his rustic village. So when he was detained by the U.S military one afternoon, after picking up three passengers, denizens wondered why this man was randomly chosen to be held in prison, and, especially, without trial? Five days after his arrest Dilawar died in his Bagram prison cell. His death came within a week of the death of another detainee at Bagram. The conclusion, with autopsy evidence, was that the former taxi driver and the detainee who passed away before him, had died due to sustained injuries inflicted at the prison by U.S. soldiers. The documentary, by award-winning producer Alex Gibney, carefully develops the last weeks of Dilawar’s life and shows how decisions taken at the pinnacle of power in the Bush Administration led directly to Dilawar’s brutal death. The film documents how Rumsfeld, together with the White House legal team, were able to convince Congress to approve the use of torture against prisoners of war. Taxi to the Dark Side is the definitive ex- ploration of the introduction of torture as an interrogation technique in U.S. facilities, and the role played by key figures of the Bush Administration in the process.
Iron Ladies of Liberia
Director D Junge; Co-Director: S Scott Johnson; Liberia 2007
After fourteen years of civil war, Liberia is a nation ready for change. On January 16 2016, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was inaugurated president. She is the first ever elected female Head of State in Africa, winning a hotly contested election with the overwhelming support of women across Liberia. Since taking office she has appointed other extraordinary women to leadership positions in all areas of government, including the police chief and the ministers of justice, commerce and finance. Can the first female Liberian president, backed by other powerful women, bring sustainable democracy and peace to such a devastated country? Iron Ladies of Liberia gives the viewer a behind-the-scenes access to Sirleaf’s first year in government, providing a unique insight into a newly elected African cabinet.
Dinner With The President
Director: Sabiha Sumar Co-Director Sachitanandam Sathananthan; Country: Pakistan 2007
What are the implications for democracy in Pakistan when secular political parties have suc- cumbed to the Islamic agenda? What does it mean when the army appears to be the only force able to contain the opponents of democracy, the armed Islamists? President Musharraf agrees to explore this apparent contradiction over dinner at his official residence, the Army House. As the discussion moves in and out of the different worlds in Pakistan, a complex tapestry emerges, revealing a society unique yet universal. The filmmaker talks to diverse individuals, from labourers to intellectuals, from street vendors to religious right wing political party members, and from journalists to industrialists. What is their idea of de- mocracy in Pakistan? What is their idea of President Musharraf’s vision of a modern Pakistan? Dinner With the President questions the role a military leader can play in guiding a state towards modern democracy.
For God, Tsar and Fatherland
Director Nino Kirtadze Russia, 2007
Mikhail Morozov is a Russian patriot,good Christian and successful businessman. He owns Durakovo – the “Village of Fools” – 100 km southwest of Moscow. People come here from all over Russia to learn how to live and become true Russians. When they join the Village of Fools, the new residents abandon all their former rights and agree to obey Mikhail Morozov’s strict rules. “What we have here is a society that respects the vertical of power, this is what our country needs most of all, “ says Morozov, quoting his idol, President Vladimir Putin. The whole spectrum of state power – political, spiritual and administrative – gathers in the village for semi-private meetings with Morozov. They discuss the future of Russia, their ambitions and their goals. For God, Tsar and Fatherland shows what drives Rus- sian patriotism today and why they are against democracy.
Director Karsten Kjaer Denmark 2007
What do Danish cartoons tell us about contemporary democracy? A lot it seems. Freedom of expression has always been a core principle of democracy. Imagining one without the other is unthinkable to most people. But what happens when one democratic right infringes on the rights of others? Since the furore of the Danish cartoons it is clear that not everyone agrees with the idea of limitless freedom. The director films in Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Qatar, France, Turkey and Denmark, talking to some of the people that played key roles during the cartoon crisis. Bloody Cartoons is a documentary about how and why drawings in a Danish provincial paper could whirl a small country into a confrontation with Muslims all over the world. He asks whether respect for Islam combined with the heated response to the cartoons is now leading ustowardsself-censorship. Howtolerantshouldwebe,hewonders,oftheintolerant. Andwhatlimitsshouldtherebe, if any, to freedom of speech in a democracy.
Egypt: We Are Watching You
Director Leila Menjou and Sherief Fahmy Egypt, 2007
In his 2005 State of the Union address President George W. Bush cites Egypt as the country that will pave the way for democracy in the Middle East. Three women, unable to sit by while their country is on the brink of drastic change, start a grassroots movement to educate and empower the public by rais- ing awareness about the meaning of democracy. They name their campaign Shayfeen.com, which means to “we are watching you.” This film follows the highs and lows of the first year of their movement in Egypt. Insisting that only the people can make change happen, their goal is to educate the Egyptian public on what it takes to build the most basic pillars of democracy: demanding basic human rights, freedom of speech and the establishment of an independent judiciary. Egypt: We are Watching You shows the role ordinary citizens can play in shaping and securing their democracy.
In Search of Gandhi
Director Lalit Vachani India 2007
In the early decades of the twentieth century Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy of non-violent revolution or Satyagraha inspired a mass movement of millions of Indians to rise up against the British colonial state and successfully agitate for the establishment of a democratic and free India. In 007, the country is preparing to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of its existence as an independent nation. But what kind of a democracy does India have today? What does it actually mean to live in the world’s largest democracy? In road-movie style the film crew travels down the famous trail of Gandhi’s salt march, the remarkable mass campaign that galva- nized ordinary Indians to join the non-violent struggle for democracy and freedom almost a century ago. Stopping at the same villages and cities, where Gandhi and his followers had raised their call for independ- ence, the film documents the stories of ordinary citizens in India today. Although inspired by a historical event In Search of Gandhi is not a journey back in time. Instead it is a search for the present and future of democracy in India.
Campaign! The Kawasaki Candidate
Director Kazuhiro Soda Japan 2007
Can a candidate with no political experience and no charisma win an election when the political giant Prime Minister Koizumi and his Liberal Demo- cratic Party back him? In the fall of 00, 0-year-old, self-employed Kazuhiko “Yama-san” Yamauchi’s peaceful, hum- drum life was turned upside-down. Koizumi’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had chosen him at the last moment as its official candidate to run for a vacant seat on the Kawasaki City Council. Yama-san had zero experience in politics, no charisma, no supporters, no constituency, and one week to prepare for the impending election. The election was critical for the LDP: Yama-san’s loss would automatically oust the LDP from its position as the dominant political party on the council. Adhering to the campaign tactic of “bowing to everybody, even to telephone poles,” Yama-san visits local festivals, senior gatherings, commuter train stations, and even bus stops to offer his hand to every one he sees. Can Yama-san win this heated race? In Campaign! The Kawasaki Candidate, canvassing for a single seat in the city council becomes a microcosm of Japanese democracy.