A Whisper to a Roar
So begins the Palm Springs International Film Festival documentary - A Whisper to a Roar, which that looks at the rough road of democracy traveled by activists in Egypt, Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. The filmmakers intersperse this tightly edited history lesson with memorable quotes on power and democracy along with an animated allegory of a town beset by evil wherein their warrior savior is himself corrupted. Taken as a whole it's well done and creative packaging of some very serious issues. Probably not going to be one of the most "fun" films to see at this year's festival. But at times likely a contender some of the most impressive real people you'll see on screen.
"Freedom isn't free" is a popular phrase - but if you want a crash refresher course of what it means to stake your life for the right to vote then A Whisper to a Roar has examples aplenty. Much of the content will be familiar to anyone paying attention to world politics for the last 10-15 years. But the technical composition and personal stories of the participants make for a an engaging watch. Particularly in the final 30 minutes as the intensity of each story and the power of the examples ratchet up. The mix of personal stories and archival footage is seamless integrated to tell the stories in an easy to follow manner - which isn't trivial given the different locations, people and particulars. There's a criticism perhaps to be made that additional depth would have made for a deeper connection. But I'm hesitant to make it because while it would have helped me (I believe) it could have diluted the impact intended for viewers less familiar with the conflicts shown onscreen.
Most interestingly, by collecting the stories of such disparate struggles A Whisper to a Road draws a connected story of abuse of power in our modern age. Better than focusing deeply on any one of the democracy struggles would. Similarly to cults which vary widely in "story" but use remarkably consistent methods to cloak the manipulation of their followers. A Whisper to a Roar deconstructs how the modern dictator wrap themselves in the language of democracy while cynically preventing its use for actual change. Each brutally efficient in keeping power. At least until enough people rise as a group. And before it's over, even if they "win", many suffer dramatically in the interim. The torture and even deaths faced by those willing to stand up for their human rights isn't something the film is shy about showing when needed. It's a sad, uplifting and for some a familiar story - but one worth considering stopping to watch amidst more escapist fare.