A Whisper to a Roar


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 messier 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 is the modern (or maybe postmodern?) dictator’s adoption of the rhetoric of democracy. Watching Chavez, Kuchma, Mugabe, Mubarak, and Mahathir (the latter 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, a depressing comment on the cyclical inevitabilities in play; they once offered new hope. What begins as a political-essay film gathers uneven momentum as it documents recent 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.