This documentary began as an idea on the part of writer/producer/director Ben Moses to bring the incredible work of democracy advocate and expert Larry Diamond into the public eye. Moses was deeply impressed with Diamond’s moving book, “The Spirit of Democracy,” and sought a way to dramatize the ideas it and Diamond’s other work presented. Diamond was supportive of the idea, and introduced Moses to his former student and distinguished democracy advocate in his own right, Prince Moulay Hicham ben Abdallah of Morocco. Together, the three decided to launch a documentary film project. Moses and his production company, Appleseed Entertainment, would develop the film, Larry Diamond would serve as Executive Producer and head advisor and Moulay Hicham would provide development funding and a commitment to participate in any way he could best support the project.
In the summer of 2008, Diamond invited Moses to attend Stanford’s Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law’s annual Draper Hills Summer Fellowship on Democracy and Development Program, where democracy activists around the world gather to received training and support for their work. There, Moses was able to meet and film brief interviews with many fascinating activists. This footage was soon edited into a promotional video to help raise funds for the full-length documentary.
However, the economic crisis that arose in 2008 made fundraising difficult, and ultimately Moulay Hicham committed to making sure the important work of the film went on, with or without outside funding. With financing secured by the Prince, filming began at the 2009 Draper Hills summer program. Producer Amy Martinez and Line Producer Christopher Pavlick were hired in early 2010, and Lynne Moses, Moses’ partner in Appleseed Entertainment, joined the team as an Executive Producer.
Under Diamond’s guidance, five countries were chosen as the primary subjects of the film: Egypt, Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. Given that the target audience included many people in non-Western countries, it was determined that the message would be best received if the exploration of democracy did not include the U.S. or other Western democracies. The core message of the work is that the thirst for freedom and accountable government is universal and that democracy is not just a Western concept.
Another factor that went into the country selection was the desire to focus on activists in various stages of the process: The Student Organizer – Roberto Patiño of Venezuela; Professionals cum Protest Organizers – Esraa Ahmed Fattah and Ahmed Maher of Egypt; The Jailed Dissident cum Opposition Candidate – Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia; The Elected, but Thwarted, Challenger – Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangerai in Zimbabwe; and the Victorious Opposition Leader – Former President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine.
Along the way, it was determined that Moulay Hicham himself should interview the various heads of state interviewed for the film, when possible. As a result, the filmmakers have a treasure trove of interviews conducted by the Prince, some of which have been included in the documentary. As time did not allow for full exploitation of this rich material, a separate project is being developed around those interviews.
After the filmmakers’ “last” filming trip in November 2010, where they covered the rigged parliamentary elections in Egypt, editing began in earnest – and the Arab Spring broke out. A return trip to Egypt in April 2011 was scheduled, as well as a return to Malaysia to interview former Prime Minister Mahthir Mohamad.
Editing proved to be an enormous undertaking, whittling down enormous amounts of fantastic material on five countries into one, 94 minute film. The Herculean task was finally completed in July 2012.