British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

Why Democracy? (Short Films)

Synopsis
In October 2007, ten one-hour films focusing on contemporary democracy were broadcast in the world’s largest ever factual media event. Running alongside the 10 documentaries, and integral to the outreach component of Why Democracy? is a collection of short, innovative films made by emerging filmmakers from around the world. The films produced by the project have a common reference beyond the thematic. Both the global broadcast and the debates arising from the films were intended to lead to a greater understanding concerning both the conditions of governance facing people in different societies and cultures, as well as a broader understanding of democracy.

The 20 thought-provoking short films available online deal with personal, political and rights issues around the theme ‘What does democracy mean to me?'. Innovative and sharp, they take a sideways look at our world. Whether it’s the last shaman casting his vote in Siberia, or an internet campaign bringing about justice in Kinshasa - they aim to stimulate reflection.
Language
English
Year of release
2007
Year of production
2007
Availability
Not In Distribution
Notes
The ten long documentaries were broadcast on BBC2 and BBC4 during the period 6/10/2007 - 15/10/2007.
Subjects
Development studies; Philosophy; Politics & government
Keywords
democracy; freedom of expression; political debate; political issues

Sections

Title
Coming of Age - Kenya
Synopsis
This coming of age story depicts the three ages and stages of democracy as seen through the eyes of a girl growing up. The Kenyatta era, a time of great optimism and post-independence euphoria is reflected in the innocence and naivety of the young girl. As Kenya enters its next era, of dictatorship under Daniel arap Moi, the gloom of oppression and confusion is reflected by teenage turmoil and finally, all grown up, we find ourselves in Kenyas third stage of democracy under Mwai Kibaki and wondering if democracy, with all its free speech and openness can ever really come of age.

Title
Democratic Republic of Congo
Synopsis
An internet campaign helps in the release of a presidential candidate jailed for treason in Kinshasa for talking openly about the lack of democracy.

Title
Don’t Shoot - South Africa
Synopsis
Riaan Cruywagen has been reading the news on television since it arrived in South Africa in 1976. He prides himself in the nickname "The face of news in South Africa" and his record of the longest serving Afrikaans news reader in the world. In the context of South Africa’s spectacular transformation to democracy, Riaan explains how his professional ethics have kept him in the news reader’s seat.

Title
Famous Last Words - United Kingdom
Synopsis
A young woman boards a train on the London Underground. Is she nervous or not? And if so, why? The director’s motivation in writing this film was to evoke debate and get viewers to face up to the assumptions they may have about Muslims especially after the 7/7 bombings in London. The then Secretary of State, John Reid, revealed that there were thirty terror plots under surveillance in the UK. This reinforced everyone’s insecurities and helped fuel the media’s pre-occupation with terrorism. The question - If we are living in a nanny state where we as citizens of Britain are being monitored....will this help create a peaceful environment or does everyone become a suspect?

The central theme of the film is of hope. What British people know of other cultures tends to be negative especially with the media and politicians focusing on the increasing number of asylum seekers and immigrants coming to Britain. This film therefore unravels the complex attitudes people have towards ethnic minorities and their fears of travelling on public transport since the bombings of 7/7. It also looks at the constant surveillance that civilians accept which manifests itself into a general unease where everyone, in particularly those of Muslim decent who travel on public transport, is a suspected terrorist?

Title
Feminine-Masculine - Iran
Synopsis
In the male dominated society of Iran, Farahnaz Shiri, the first female bus driver in Tehran, has made her own little society in her bus. In Iran there are different sections for men and women on public buses. Women should enter buses from the back door, which is separated from men’s entrance, and should sit or stay in a limited zone at the end of the buses which is separated from men’s zone. But in Mrs. Shiri’s bus everything is vice-versa. She is the governor and the only law maker of her own little society. In her bus, men must enter from the backdoor entrance and must sit or stay in the limited zone at the end of the bus. Mrs. Shiri is struggling to prove herself in this society and resisting a series of injustices that she faces as a woman in the Iranian society.

Title
India
Synopsis
An elephant being ridden down Parliament Street represents different realities to three blind men, as does their experience with democracy.

Title
Interferenze- Italy
Synopsis
The right to freedom of speech is an essential element to democracy. In our so-called democratic countries, is there space for a concrete exercise of such inviolable right? Or is its guarantee a utopian Constitutional ideal?
In 2002, pirate local TV stations started to spread throughout the Italian territory, as a response to the lack of public access television and a statement against the oligarchic control over the most influential medium.

INTERFERENZE explores the intriguing story of what became known as the Telestreet network through the personal experience of the members of Orfeo TV, the pirate station who initiated the movement.

Title
Maria and Osmey - Cuba
Synopsis
This short film tells the story of a group of Cuban kids who gather together to play a baseball game in their local neighbourhood. Osmey and Maria together with their friends make a baseball from scratch, using a deodorant and some tape. Carlos "the eldest" arrives to the park with his ball and bat. He takes away Osmey’s ball and hits it toward the benches. He calls the shots and chooses team mates. Maria is left out due to Carlos’s rules of the game. During their match several situations arise, that become conflicts which are resolved in ways only kids can manage. Carlos ball brakes, Osmey finds a radio, Maria finds the original home made ball and is now in control because she has the only ball. As she gets ready to bat , from the radio at the side of the field we hear a serious, official announcement, an announcement that would stop all Cubans in their tracks. But the kids are unaware of this and the game goes on....

Title
My Body my Weapon
Synopsis
Irom Sharmila is a young woman of Manipur who has been on a fast-to-death for nearly 7 years now. She has been demanding the removal of a brutal law from her land. Manipur is a north-east Indian state (bordering Myanmar), riven for decades by insurgency and armed separatist movements. The Government of India has attempted to control the situation militarily, granting drastic powers to the security forces. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act enforced in the region lets people be arrested, shot and even killed - on suspicion alone. But Sharmila is willing to stake everything - even her life - to restore justice and dignity to her people.

Title
Old Peter - Russia
Synopsis
The dialogue between people, nature and gods is based upon a sacred knowledge and mythology. In the modern world only a few cultures based on myth survive. This film takes us into the word of Old Peter, the last surviving Shaman of the Kazym River. We see Old Peter surviving on the Siberian taiga and follow him going to cast his vote. The region of the Khanty people is the basic source of oil recovery in Russia. About 70 percent of all Russian oil is extracted here. The oil companies actively buy huge territories in the North of Siberia. Indigenous people are compelled to leave these places, their own patrimonial territories, and so a modern civilization gradually absorbs an ancient culture. Old Peter votes in every election but this has not helped to stop the destruction of his culture through massive oil extraction.

Title
On the Square - Croatia
Synopsis
Croatia is small country where people like to take big vacations. No-one wants to remember that Croatia used to be Yugoslavia. But someone on the town square in Zagreb reminds them.

Title
Three Blind Men - India
Synopsis
India is the largest democracy in the world and in Delhi the capital there is a street set aside for permanent protests, Parliament Street. People converge daily to make all sorts of grand demands. Amongst the crowds, on this day, three blind men come across an elephant and while the crowds surge and shout their demands the men try to decide what the elephant is. They each experience something different - one thinks it’s a buffalo, another a wall, or is it a camel? The mahout has another point of view...

Title
You Cannot Hide from Allah - Pakistan
Synopsis
This is the story of Mr Ihsan Khan. An immigrant from a small town in the Northwest Frontier Provinces in Pakistan, Mr Khan was a taxi cab driver in Washington DC for over twenty years. And then, in 2001, he won $54 million on the lottery. Four years later, he decided to put his money to some good: and so he returned to his hometown in Pakistan and ran for Mayor. And he won. This film tells the story of our lottery-winning Mayor, how he deals with the neverending complaints of corruption, and demands that he personally solve all the problems of his constituents. What is the relation between money and politics in a democracy? That is the underlying question in this film. For some allege Mr. Khan has used his own wealth to gain political power. His defenders say he works for free and has donated more than a million dollars of his own wealth for post-earthquake disaster relief (in this town that was devastated by the enormous 2005 earthquake in Pakistan). And he says his number one aim is to fight corruption. Who is right? Democratic politics, is after all, a very messy business, where everyone has the right to raise their voice and file a complaint, demand, or offer their praise...

Title
Zimbabwe
Synopsis
A filmmaker finds himself in the midst of an economic and political meltdown, and attempts to document the absence of democracy in spite of state harassment.

Distributor

Name

Why Democracy

Email
info@whydemocracy.net
Web
http://www.whydemocracy.net External site opens in new window

Record Stats

This record has been viewed 1211 times.