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[liberationtech] A Whisper to a Roar: The Activist, the Hero & the Warrior

Yosem Companys companys at
Mon Oct 22 21:28:15 PDT 2012

As President Obama and Governor Romney take the stage for the final debate,
they'll cover foreign policy. David E. Sanger
candidates' positions and differences for the *New York Times* Caucus blog
this weekend. He offers a field guide to the debate that includes possible
negotiations with Iran, issues arising from the Benghazi attack, China,
Afghanistan and the Taliban. Sanger asks how each candidate views the "the
future of American power in the world."

After seeing the film *A Whisper to a Roar <>
* this weekend and talking with the three principals involved in making
this documentary, my main question has changed slightly -- moving away from
America's role and instead asking, "What is the role of democracy in the
world today?"

Film has an incredible power to move us. In the case of the new documentary
*A Whisper to a Roar*, democracy and the fight for freedom are not only
moving, but also deeply personal, thought-provoking and inspiring.

*A Whisper to a Roar* focuses on the struggle for democracy as it plays out
in five very different countries -- Egypt, Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela and
Zimbabwe. In each of these countries, the fight for democracy has been, and
remains, intense. The film takes us through very personal and risk-filled
stories to introduce to us what Prince Moulay Hicham describes as the
heroism of the ordinary citizen. We meet and follow workers, journalists,
students and government officials who take to the streets to protest
against oppression, face possible harsh repercussions for speaking out and
still push through the brick wall of often fraudulent bureaucracy to cast
their vote.

In speaking with the three principal collaborators on the film, I had the
chance to hear how making *AWTAR*affected each of them personally, the
vision this film embraces and what they hope this story will mean to other
people across the world. Director/writer/producer Ben Moses (*Good Morning
Vietnam*) teamed up with Stanford professor Larry Diamond, whose book, *The
Spirit of Democracy*, inspired the film. Prince Moulay Hicham of Morocco
was the film's benefactor, collaborated on the production and conducted
interviews with heads of state.

The story *A Whisper To A Roar* tells is far from easy. The material is
complex and timely, and the uncertainty, violence and constantly shifting
political situations make the filmmaker's task a daunting one. Moses
handles the difficult material adroitly and though parts of the film are
difficult to watch due to violence, what shines through is a core belief
that people will go to great lengths to make their voices heard.

Larry Diamond describes the film in this way:

I think the core idea is that democracy has become a universal value.
People around the world, even in tough places like Zimbabwe... there's an
overwhelming, popular desire for democracy, and that it is a struggle.
People have been taking enormous risks for this intangible thing and it
isn't only economic development they want. They want freedom and
self-determination as well. The right of people to speak out, to challenge,
to criticize their rulers, to freely associate, to contest for office, to
hold leaders accountable -- these are not just rights that are in the
abstract. And they're not just rights that people in developed countries
care about. They're rights that people from vastly different cultural and
developmentally historical circumstances are mobilizing for and are
passionate about. So that was the core of it. The fact that there is a
universal quality to it now... And that it's not an easy thing to bring
about and sustain.

To introduce the overarching themes and concept of how power can corrupt,
the film opens with an animated sequence, a Chinese parable with an
original twist. This is an unexpected touch in a serious documentary. It's
the story of a dragon, his armor, a warrior and populist heroism to frame
the real-life drama we are about to experience. In talking with the
filmmakers, they all discussed the desire for the film to show the
universal nature of democracy that's been building around the world.

At a certain point, the cynic in me did make an appearance. How is it that
these men who have devoted so many years to studying, writing, discussing
and promoting democracy can still talk about it and use words like freedom,
dignity, solidarity, awe, heroism with such conviction? How can they be so
sure democracy is the right path and truly believe in the power of people
to make a stand and make change?

Prince Moulay Hicham talked about how the film affected him.

All of my life I could have walked out cynically on everything. And have a
place in the sun. But like all those people, in my own way I cannot claim
to be as heroic as them. I can claim to be persistent, as bullish as them,
but I'm certainly not as heroic as them and I'm humbled by everything I saw
in that movie. What I feel is emboldening in the fact that you could have
transposed each of these countries one on top of the other one and it's the
same thing. You know, dragons come in very different forms and the warriors
that come to face them have many faces. That's the Chinese parable that's
in the movie, and that's so true.

And so the skeptic in me quiets down at least for the moment. I can't help
but think about our impending presidential elections, the struggle we face
in getting voters to the polls and our relative comfort compared to many
parts of the world. Certain speeches I heard at the Democratic Convention
and seeing this film made me realize: Yes, our system is flawed. No, I'm
not always sure whom to believe. But I still want to be part of this. I
want to be part of this messy, frustrating system and be active in my

Here's Ben Moses with his comments on why democracy and being an active
citizen are important:

Having a voice. That's what I learned from this film. If people don't have
a voice, they will do something to get one. And they may die to try to get
it, but they will try.

I never knew how important that was. I pretty much avoided being anything
more than a spectator for years because of working for the networks and
doing documentaries. If we don't, as a majority of people, at least get
involved in everything that goes on in governing ourselves -- democracy, as
Andrey Shevchenko [from the film] said, you can lose it. Everybody's got to
stay involved. Everybody's got to compromise. That's one of the takeaways I
have from this film too.

There are so many stories coming out daily about global conflict and
struggles that it can seem overwhelming and impossible to follow them. I
asked Larry Diamond, "How do the struggles in these other countries apply
to me? How do I find my way in?"

It's hard to just open a newspaper and read an account about [places in]
the world where people are engaged in an extremely, impassioned,
existential and difficult struggle -- it's hard to read about and really
identify with that. If you get to know an individual or a few individuals,
then their national drama... becomes more meaningful. It becomes something
that's more readily understandable because it's personal and... an
important contribution of this film is getting people involved with and
acutely aware of the personal stories of people who are taking great risks,
who are struggling for democracy. And once it becomes personal, it becomes
much more manageable, much more intelligible, much more vivid, much more
real, much more concrete. That's how I think you begin to identify with
this large scale, wide spread, universal, grand struggle for political
transformation and liberation.

*You can find more of the conversation with Ben Moses, Larry Diamond and
Prince Moulay Hicham <>. We
cover how Facebook, Twitter and cell phones have become tools for
democracy, human nature and what to look for in these developing

*A Whisper to a Roar* opened in Los Angeles on Friday, October 19th. Visit
the website <> to find more screenings and ways
to get involved. You can see the trailer here:
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