Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Why Democracy?

While traveling in Washington DC for a few days last week, I attended an event at the National Archives, where short clips from different documentaries were shown. The theme was democracy and how people and cultures from different parts of the world interpret it. This is the website of the group that is organizing the documentary project - called Why Democracy? - and bringing it to fruition.

The clips I saw at the DC event were brilliant – I can’t wait for the release of these movies. Among the movies featured was Dinner with the President, an audacious and nuanced account of a Pakistani reporter's travels to different parts of her country. The reporter's goal is to get a sense of what people from all walks of life – including Musharraf, whom she meets at a dinner – feel about democracy and the current political situation. A preview of the movie is here.

Also in the collection is Iron Ladies of Liberia, about the new President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and her brave and intelligent mediation of political disputes; and Please Vote for Me, a hilarious yet disconcerting look at the election of a class monitor in a primary school in Wuhan, China. I was astonished by how expertly this movie (at least in the clip I saw) was able to encapsulate - through the actions of little kids! - the power play, corruption and grievances that entail the democratic process. It reminded me a bit of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.


kartik talamadupula said...

Please vote for me has an amazing premise - I think I'm still thinking about the various messages coming out of that short piece :-)

Awesome tip Hari!

Hari said...

It does have a great premise! I clip I saw at DC was much longer and had quite an effect on the audience.

Now let's wait till October till these movies come out :)

iounit said...


How are you ?

This kid in China seems to have figured it out! I am looking forward to the movie.

Nice post, great link. I remember from my Civics lessons "Democracy is the best form of governance when in the hands of responsible people." :)
Responsible people - Enuf said !!

On another note: I have always been skeptical about equal weight votes. Not everybody has the same IQ ! Then why should their votes be equal !!!

Hari said...

I am doing fine, iounit - how are you? This comments page is a like a Tempe messageboard!:)

It's interesting that you should question the idea of universal suffrage. In fact I was reading Ramachandra Guha's recently released India after Gandhi:The History of the World's Largest Democracy, and this question - along with a host of other interesting questions - apparently came up just after independence when the Indian parliament was debating on how democracy should be implemented given that levels of literacy were so low.