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Bringing Down a Dictator

4.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...a good short primer...as the narrator, Martin Sheen, says in a compelling concluding segment, Otpor's success suggests that oppressive leaders can best be toppled not by outside military force, but by grassroots movements from within." --Neil Genzlinger, New York Times

"A priceless history lesson...Dictator succeeds most intriguingly as a how-to manual for revolution via civil disobedience. Grade A." --Entertainment Weekly

"...remarkable and inspiring....a fascinating window on a revolution that was given limited coverage by America's 24-hour news services." --Kevin McDonough, United Feature

About the Director

Steve York is a veteran documentary filmmaker who has worked in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America on subjects ranging from religious fundamentalism to American history to nonviolent conflict. Bringing Down a Dictator is York's second documentary about successful nonviolent movements. His first, A Force More Powerful, an in-depth examination of the history of nonviolent conflict, played in film festivals in 1999 and then was broadcast on national public television and nominated for an Emmy. Bringing Down a Dictator won the coveted George Foster Peabody award in 2003. Like A Force More Powerful, Dictator has been translated into some ten languages and distributed around the world. York's third film, Orange Revolution, chronicles 17 days in the Ukraine when a group of ordinary citizens engaged in extraordinary acts of political protest. Capturing the songs and spirit of this moment in history, Orange Revolution tells the story of a people united, not by one leader or one party, but by one idea: to defend their vote.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Ivan Marovic, Srdja Popovic, Otpor!
  • Directors: Steve York
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: A Force More Powerful Films
  • DVD Release Date: November 15, 2001
  • Run Time: 56 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00125DW8Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,105 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
When I heard that this was the movie that youth leaders had watched in Egypt I knew I had to see it. And one thing I learned from watching Bringing Down a Dictator is that you can't take the easy way out when change is calling your name.

As the soothing voice of Martin Sheen led me into Serbia, I began, in true American fashion, to think about myself. What had my generation cared about even a third as much as Otpor cared about calling for political revolution? I was aware of the nonviolent nature of the protests but I expected to see a mass of wealthy Serbs fighting for freedom. What I saw was far more compelling: young people using their passion to rouse their countrymen to demand what many wish they had -- democracy.

The most interesting thing was how Otpor approached their challenges, peacefully but with strategies similar to the military, despite the belief that Slobo would only respond to force. Otpor leaders even called Serbian police officers "victims" and urged their followers not to rouse conflict with them. They used humor and intellect to prove that government must bend to the will of the people, and that people are the only means necessary. Every moment was a true testament to the fact that nothing can scorch the tenacity of the human spirit.

As the film came to a close I found myself with clenched fists, relishing in the rhetorical brilliance of phrases such as "I'm a drug addict, I am addicted to freedom and I need more and more of it every day." These words, these ideas of demanding change with just the fruit of your lips and the love for country in your heart, had my head spinning. Clearly, it inspired the people of Egypt too.
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I regularly screen Bringing Down a Dictator in my courses at Swarthmore College. This film does an excellent job of introducing students to the fundamentals of nonviolent power. Students come to understand that authoritarian regimes, while formidable, are often more fragile than we imagine. Milosevic's regime, like others, relied on a mixture of apathy, fear, and cynicism that the students of Otpor fought to dispel through humor, appeals to nationalism, and tireless public outreach. Like any large institution, Milosevic's regime depended on the loyalty of its functionaries (such as the police) and at least a veneer of public credibility. Otpor students carefully undermined both through its broad grassroots organizing, popular nonviolent resistance, and by awakening a multi-party political opposition.

While set in a different region, this film can be an informative comparative case when studying recent nonviolent uprisings in the Middle East.

I remember sponsoring a campus-wide screening of Bringing Down a Dictator, and students were so engaged that in the packed room those on the back row sat on the backs of their chairs for the entire film to ensure that they didn't miss anything. In classes, the film never fails to provoke excellent discussion.
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Anyone with an interest in how nonviolent resistance works should watch this film. In my college courses on political violence, I use this film to illustrate that nonviolent resistance is a viable alternative to violent insurgency, even under very repressive conditions. The film offers a mixture of activist interviews, observer commentary, and even discussion by theorists of nonviolent resistance, in explaining how this "student movement" helped to organize the overthrow of a dictator who couldn't be dislodged before--by domestic opponents, neighboring states, or NATO. A fantastic, inspiring, pedagogical tool for students and activists.
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I just showed this film today to a class I teach at Portland State University, Ecology of War and Peace. During the first few weeks of class, we focus on the problems of the war system and now, today, I kicked off the elements of building a peace system with this film, which both produces and takes advantage of teachable moments. Every single student--even those who had been previously apparently catatonic--were enthused and insightful. I had to end class or they would have stayed late! It is, after all, a true story of "powerless" college students leading a nation to freedom. It doesn't get more relevant than that.
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It's one thing to make an interesting film that chronciles successful nonviolent resistance. This film does WAY WAY more. It draws us into a social movement - its strategies, tactics, lessons, obstacles, key players, creativity, and flashes of brilliance. And it captures the tumult and risks along the way, building suspense with each passing moment. The youth-led OTPOR nonviolent resistance movement is an inspiration to groups around the world fighting corruption, authoritarianism, and injustice.
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