A Whisper to a Roar (NR)

Documentary 106
By Michelle Orange
An expertly drawn primer on the soft dictatorships that constrained five different countries and the peaceful revolutions that sought to expunge them, A Whisper to a Roar might have been a messy helping of geopolitical hash. Director Ben Moses opens with a doleful animated parable about power's potential to corrupt; then he ambitiously interweaves stories of oppression and uprising out of the Ukraine, Venezuela, Egypt, Malaysia, and Zimbabwe. The crucial connection made between them is the modern (or maybe postmodern?) dictator's adoption of the rhetoric of democracy. Watching Chavez, Kuchma, Mugabe, Mubarak, and Mahathir (the latter is interviewed here) gas on about their devotion to full democratic rights recasts the quintet as great ironists of the age. In most cases, the leaders are former revolutionaries themselves, a depressing comment on the cyclical inevitabilities in play; they too once offered new hope. What begins as a political-essay film gathers uneven momentum as it documents recent and ongoing grassroots efforts for change--genuine democracy confronting its puppet-show guise. Moses sometimes goes darker than need be, though the maddening sum of these stories makes it hard to blame him.
Ben Moses Alfred Molina Ben Moses


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