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Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas 2008
Description: From the communal councils of Venezuela to constitutional assemblies, grassroots movements and cooperatives, filmmakers Silvia Leindecker and Michael Fox discover the many incarnations of democracy across the Americas. The documentary examines democracy in nations such as Brazil, Colombia and Canada, and details interviews with journalists, cooperative and community members, elected representatives, academics and activists.
Released: 28 Oct 2008 Director: Michael Fox, Silvia Leindecker Writers: N/A Actors: Eduardo Galeano, Amy Goodman, Martha Harnecker, Emir Sader Genres: Documentary
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Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas Reviews:

Democracy is undergoing significant changes in Latin America. For most of the 20th century this continent was ruled by military juntas, backed by the United States, which tortured and killed their political opponents. As a reaction perhaps, in the past 15 years, these countries have moved towards a system of participatory democracy. Liberal democracy in which citizens vote once each election cycle has been dismissed as being corrupt and in fact anti-democratic.That's what this documentary is about, the fresh evolution of democracy in Latin America, which has since spread to another countries around the globe. The revolution started in Brazil in Porto Alegre where the town created a system of participatory citizen budget committees. Essentially, all the neighbourhoods of the town come together and decide what they wish the government to spend cash on. Fresh community centres? Fresh homes? Fresh sewer systems? If a local representative isn't listening this is the method to receive things done. The effects look very promising.The documentary also focuses on the Chavez phenomenon in Venezuela where the President has encouraged direct democracy by allowing the voters to create many of the decisions for themselves. It looks like there is some horizontal democracy in Venezuela but Chavez has also reformed the constitution to let for indefinite term limits. Yes, he is an authoritarian who is using this fresh phenomenon of direct democracy to further his own power. This isn't really mentioned in the documentary, the term limits were reformed earlier this year (February 2009).The film also explores the economic crisis of Argentina in 2001 and the resulting direct democracy movement there. Many workers when laid off from their jobs re-opened the factories without their bosses. The documentary now uses clips from the Canadian Avi Lewis documentary "The Take" here. Eight years soon the idea of employee-run workplaces is still going strong.These concepts haven't really taken a foothold in Canada. A several cities in Quebec implemented participatory budgeting but for the most part it's scarce anywhere north of Mexico. Maybe we have to face a military junta before this happens or perhaps we're all distracted by the shiny lure of capitalism and its many goodies.For those who are cynical and tell that humanity can't rule itself without representatives then this is proof that it can happen and does work. It's a step in the right direction because folks could have the right to govern their own lives and have the same essential services to which everyone has a universal right.



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