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
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 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
the 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
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?
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 www.thirdpartypolitics.org. 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
www.preventivewarriors.com. 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 www.michaelpburns.com.
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 GrowingOld.info,
while MonkeyRay Productions can be found at MonkeyRay.com.
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. Originallya 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 www.yukooda.com.
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.
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 picturesClips
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
See more about Majority Rules and Michael Burns' other films at www.michaelpburns.com.