‘A Whisper to a Roar’ Sparks Discussion on Democracy

January 31, 2013
By Kate Hoagland, Ash Center Communications

What motivates people across the globe to risk their lives to fight for democracy? And why do authoritarian regimes survive despite the recent expansion of democracy around the world?

With the film “A Whisper to a Roar” as a backdrop, panelists on Monday sought an answer to these elusive questions. The panel, which included the Egyptian Democratic Academy activist Esraa Abdel Fattah, the Slate Magazine journalist William Dobson, the film director Ben Moses, and Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Professor Tarek Masoud, addressed a capacity crowd at the HKS screening of the documentary. The event, part of the center’s focus on the relationship between democratic governance and persistent urgent social challenges, launched the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation’s spring Democracy Seminar series.

“A Whisper to a Roar” follows the struggles of pro-democracy activists and political leaders in five authoritarian countries — Egypt, Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe — and is based on the work of Larry Diamond, a renowned democracy scholar and author of the 2008 book “The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World.” (Diamond was also an Ash Center Democracy Seminar speaker in 2009.)

Masoud, who was the panel’s moderator, served as a leading commentator on the film’s focus on the 2011 revolution in Egypt. During the post-film discussion he questioned the nature and durability of authoritarianism.

“Even when you get rid of a dictator, why does authoritarianism still remain?” he asked, citing the countries the film profiled as examples of non-democracies with weak political rights and civil liberties despite the work of pro-democracy activists.

Moses, the director, responded that “democracy is never over,” and that it can often be harder to maintain a democracy than to establish one — a point stressed by the film’s lack of a happy ending. read more

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(From L to R) Esraa Abdel Fattah, Egyptian Democratic Academy activist and Ben Moses, “A Whisper to a Roar” director. 

Photo Credit: Charles Maxwell-Coghlan

“Democracy is never over,” said Moses.