Sheffield Doc/Fest Preview: What is Democracy?

Democracy is good. For decades this has been a universal truth widely accepted by those living in a country with a democratic system of government, and even those who do not. However, over the past few years, largely down to political events occurring around the world, we’ve begun to question this assumption. Characterised by factors such as political freedom, a fair justice system and legal equality, it’s a concept first established by the ancient Greeks in the Classical Era.

Indeed, much of the earliest (existing) writing on the subject of democracy came courtesy of Plato, whose work Republic director Astra Taylor uses as a starting point for her new film What is Democracy? She starts her quest in the cradle of democracy, Athens, where along with celebrated theorists such as Cornel West and Silvia Federici, she begins a quest to find answers. Taylor’s journey takes her from modern-day Greece to Trump’s America.

What is Democracy? is an extremely timely documentary which drills down into one of the biggest questions facing the Western world. Taylor is known for her thoughtful and studied work and here is no different. It feels like a visual essay. As much a series of philosophical questions as an attempt to formulate a cohesive answer. Don’t expect a compelling thriller. What is Democracy? takes a step back and analyses the state of the socio-political climate around the world. It’s a fascinating and enlightening treatise.

The world premiere of What is Democracy? takes place at Sheffield Doc/Fest on 9 June. It also screens on 12 June.

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