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Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy In The Americas

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

In 1989, the Brazilian Worker's Party altered the concept of local government when they installed participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, allowing residents to participate directly in the allocation of city funds. Ten years later, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was swept into power with the promise of granting direct participation to the Venezuelan people; who have now formed tens of thousands of self-organized communal councils. In the Southern Cone, cooperative and recuperated factory numbers have grown, and across the Americas social movements and constitutional assemblies are taking authority away from the ruling elites and putting power into the hands of their members and citizens. Featuring interviews with: Eduardo Galeano, Amy Goodman, Emir Sader, Martha Harnecker, Ward Churchill, and Leonardo Avritzer as well as cooperative and community members, elected representatives, academics, and activists from Brazil, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, United States, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, and more.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Amy Goodman, Ward Churchill, Martha Harnecker Eduardo Galeano
  • Directors: Michael Fox, Sílvia Leindecker
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: PM PRESS
  • DVD Release Date: October 28, 2008
  • Run Time: 104 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001EDGKYC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,254 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Preston C. Enright on November 30, 2008
Verified Purchase
"Beyond Elections" is not an "entertaining" film, but it is very informative. It examines the meaning of democracy beyond the occasional votes that take place, and look at how democracy can have a deeper meaning in the world. The DVD goes beyond theories, and takes the viewer to places like Porto Alegre, Brasil where citizens are involved with participatory budgeting The Porto Alegre Experiment: Learning Lessons for Better Democracy. We also are shown how workers in Argentina have taken over the factories that owners and managers have left behind The Take. Another example of democracy in action is the "Bolivarian circles" that have developed in Venezuela Hugo Chavez: The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.
The film isn't flashy at all, it is mostly interviews with people involved in community meetings, worker assemblies, cooperatives and so forth; but in the wake of the Obama election, it's valuable to have a documentary that looks at the nuts and bolts of other forms of democratic participation.
"Beyond Elections" also takes a look at the sort of response that elites have begun in places like Bolivia where indigenous people have been gaining power with the Evo Morales presidency Cocalero. Wealthy business people in the resource rich southern part of Bolivia have begun a secessionist movement that would cost Bolivia's government billions in lost royalties.
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Beyond Elections was a tremendous depiction of diverse forms of participatory democracy in action. You start with Porto Alegre's "Participatory Budgeting" (PB) system. I have long been an advocate of what this great Brazilian city has achieved. However, the film failed to actually show the process in motion. You will see many interviews by those directly involved in the PB system and also get a glimpse of some of the complete projects but, I don't think the new comer will leave having achieved a basic grasp of the system itself. You see loud, high energy assemblies, spokespeople for the communities, and then a completed project. I understand time constraints would not allow for a grand over-view of the inner workings of the system but I wish the producers would have shown the process in a slightly more detailed manner.

Next you head Venezuela and take a look at the communal councils that have been booming since 2006. In the councils citizens of a given geographic region can collectively decide which projects in their region require funding. The councils have been wildly popular (tens of thousands now exist) but there is a hardship that exists in encouraging community participation. Venezuela effectively achieved democracy ten years ago. Jumping from tyranny to republicanism to direct democracy would be quite the challenge for any nation in a ten year period. The question of the executive branch's centralization of state power is never explored either. Many worry this centralization will effectively make the councils dependent on the state opposed to being true autonomous bodies.

A question regarding both the PB system in Brazil and the councils in Venezuela is where do they stop?
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Freedom is when we hand back governance to the governments which allows us to be free independant citizens to pursue life. Where is the freedom of a democratic society when we as citizens do the work of government.

Governments and public servants you have indulgent lives, earnt it. We elect governments we should elect the public servants as well. Citizens shouldn't create another beauracracy but be allowed to 'police' the existing ones.
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