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Democracy in action, and on screens

The mega-mission known as The Democracy Project is gaining momentum as the bulk of the 10 films chosen from over 300 submissions go into production in September.
June 1, 2005

The mega-mission known as The Democracy Project is gaining momentum as the bulk of the 10 films chosen from over 300 submissions go into production in September.

An initiative of STEPS International- a non-profit group established by the parties involved with STEPS for the Future, the organization known for producing and distributing 38 films about AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa – this project is a collection of docs about the amorphous idea of democracy.

The works are being commissioned from indie filmmakers around the world who will focus on countries in transition, where democratic practices may be new or suffering. The STEPS International working group, responsible for selecting the films, is a collection of five commissioning editors and producers, including TV2 Denmark’s Mette Hoffman Meyer, ARTE France’s Christoph Jörg, BBC’s Nick Fraser, Sundance Institute’s Diane Weyermann and STEPS’ Mette Heide.

The one-hour films will air on more than 20 global broadcasters – as far-reaching as Australia’s SBS, Canada’s CBC, Japan’s NHK and Finland’s YLE – and at least two titles will be released theatrically. ‘Our aim is to create a global event for January, 2007,’ says Jörg, ‘so that every broadcaster involved transmits these programs, if not simultaneously, then at least in the same week.’

There will also be worldwide DVD and video distribution, as well as an independent website to promote discussions and provide information on the films in several languages.

Pitching events for hopeful filmmakers were held at IDFA, AIDC and Hot Docs; the last one takes place in June during Silverdocs in Silver Spring, U.S. Workshops have also occurred in India, China and Japan to connect members of the steps working group with local filmmakers.

While Jörg admits coordinating decisions with all of the broadcasters involved was ‘a little bit messy’ in the beginning, he says. ‘I think we will be judged by the result of this whole experience, so we have to make each decision carefully… We all have to agree on what we’re doing.’ Sounds very democratic indeed.

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