a documentary series by michael burns   


          What is Democracy?

          A system of government.  A radical innovation.  A rejection of kings.  A pledge of inclusiveness.  A façade.  A cover for the powerful. 
          An unfulfilled promise.  A bad joke.  A source of inspiration.  A voice for the people.  A product of human evolution.  A euphemism for freedom. 
          A euphemism for imperialism.  A free choice.  An excuse to invade another country.  A proud export.  An unwanted import.  An idea.  A concept. 
A reality.  A hope.

          The twentieth century can be framed as a battle between great forces- the struggle for freedom vs. the struggle for control, free markets vs.
          closed economies, Western ambitions vs. Eastern aspirations.  It can also be framed as the defining stage for democracy.  The devastation
          of two World Wars, countless independence movements, the deposition of royalty around the world, and the creation of international bodies
          to deal with the aftermaths put democratic experiments around the world to the test, often pushing them to (and occasionally beyond) their
          breaking points.

          Despite worldwide violence, democracy survived.  It’s that system of governance that holds an extremely odd notion at its core- odd, in
          the sense that the vast expanse of human history is dominated by much different concepts.  The idea is that the crucially important decisions
          in society ought to be made by everyday people and not by kings, shahs, emperors, czars, or other sovereigns.  Through a variety of mechanisms
          it would be the “common” person who was now in control of shaping his, her, a collective, destiny.

          But reality is more complicated than that.  And human endeavors do not proceed in a uniformed way.  Layers of culture, tradition, chance, and
          circumstance mean that reality changes in different places in different ways, at different speeds, or not at all.  Human beings longing for
          permanence on the one hand, and demand for reform on the other, has meant that the ebbs and flows of history’s changes can
          unpredictably and alternatively both splash tentatively on the shore or break triumphantly on the rocks of the status quo. 

          What is Majority Rules?Majority Rules

          Majority Rules is a film series exploring the idea of democracy from the perspective of young people from around
          the world.  Filming six moderated conversations of university-age students on location in their home countries, the
          film brings out their vision for
their community, their country, their world.  A standard list of questions about
          democracy was asked to all
groups.  The responses not only spotlight differences in values and traditions,
          but speak to the aspirations,
dreams, obstacles, and frustrations that the future holds.

          Young people are raised in traditions but are open-minded enough to seek to break them.  They hear the slogans of
          leaders but are savvy enough to question them.  They have heard the advice of those cynical about progress in 
world, but are hopeful (or perhaps naive enough) not to believe them.  Through moderated discussions the film’s
          job is to solicit candid thoughts
and reactions on the desirability, hypocrisy, idealism, and complexity of democracy
          as students see it.  Where do the future
leaders of the world’s societies see the twenty-first century headed?  Is it a  Majority Rules
          century that will see democracy survive 
in the face of a century likely to be dominated by WMD?  Will democracy 
          survive in name only?  Doesn’t it mean 
more than just the right to vote?  What about their own countries- how will
          they relate to the world?  To the
superpowers?  How will this impact democratic change?  Does democracy mean
          freedom and does freedom always
mean progress?

To order click here  To watch a clip click here  Interview with the director click here

          About the Production Team

          Michael Burns - Director, Producer    Michael Burns is the producer/director of two films on American politics.  
          Third Party, released in
May 2003, is the most comprehensive documentary to date on the history and strategy of
          American political third party efforts.  Also following
the story of a local candidate from the Green Party, the film
          shows how political theory plays out in the lives of everyday Americans seeking
to reform and invigorate the electoral
          process.  The film is distributed by The Cinema Guild and its website is
Preventive Warriors,
          released in May 2004, takes an in depth look at one of the most significant political documents of our time, the White

          House’s National Security Strategy of September 2002, the blueprint for pre-emptive (or preventive) wars of the present and future.  Preventive
          Warriors premiered on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now, is distributed by Journeyman Pictures, and can be found on the web at
  Both films continue to be featured both in US and international film festivals as well as classrooms nationwide.

          More on Burns’ work can be found at
Greg Ansin - Production Assistant, Camera    Greg Ansin is a Boston based independent filmmaker and is the founder of MonkeyRay Productions. 
          His current production is "Growing Old", a film that takes a look at the fears and joys of aging.  More on the film can be found at
          while MonkeyRay Productions can be found at

          Michael Neel - Director of Photography    Michael Neel has worked as a director of photography, editor, and director for television, documentaries,
          and narrative films.  He was the director of photography for Preventive Warriors, and is excited to be working with Michael Burns and Greg Ansin
          again.  He hopes that Majority Rules can help people think about the nature of democracy and its role in world politics.

Brigitte Schulz - Production Assistant    Brigitte Schulz is Associate Professor of Political Science at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.  Originally
          a native of Germany, her books, including Development Policy in the Cold War Era and The Soviet Bloc and the Third World center on her continuing
          interests: government and economic development.

Yuko Oda - Animation    Yuko Oda is a Japanese installation and digital media artist who is living and working in New York City; she is a member
of Stay Gold Gallery.  Yuko teaches
courses in multimedia production and 3-D animation as an Assistant Professor in the Digital Media department
of Albright College.  More on her work can be found at

Jim Matus - Music    Jim Matus is a Hartford, Connecticut based musician/composer and is the founder of World Fusion groups Paranoise and Mawwal
He is also active with progressive political rants and satire such as his latest, "God Take Bush".


          Majority Rules’ early production was been made possible by the 
Clinton Institute for American Studies at University College of Dublin.  Only through
          their generosity and sponsorship has the educational essence of the project, international dialogue on democracy, been
          able to come to initial fruition.  We eagerly look forward to working with other educational institutions likewise committed to the
          discussion of democracy among tomorrow’s leaders as we disseminate a film sure to be an invaluable tool to those
          teaching these issues.

Majority Rules
          Order a Copy

The series is five episodes: Definitions & Conceptions, Economic Democracy, Political Apathy, Exporting
Democracy, and International Organizations and Democracy.  They are sold as one set.

Majority Rules is now available for purchase.  The five disc DVD set costs $39.95 US for individual purchase (home
viewing), and $124.95 for institutions.  There is a new teaching pack available as well, which you can include as you order your copy.  All materials can be purchased via our online relationship with Pennypool by clicking here.

click for more pictures

Watch a one-minute promo of the film in avi or mov format (takes 40 seconds to download).                                                          
New clips added, May 2007:
Click here for a clip from the Episode - Political Apathy
Click here for a clip from the Episode - Economic Democracy
Click here for a clip from the Episode - Exporting Democracy

Interview with Director

Read a recent interview with director Michael Burns by clicking here.

Listen to a radio interview with director Michael Burns by clicking here.
Listen to another radio interview with Michael Burns by clicking here.

Organizing a Talk

Michael Burns is currently organizing a speaking and screening tour in relation to the film at several high schools and universities.  If your institution is interested in possibly inviting him to present, please send an email to

See More

See more about Majority Rules and Michael Burns' other films at