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Review: Heroic efforts chronicled in 'A Whisper to a Roar'

The provocative documentary tells the stories of activists who risked almost everything to bring democracy to their countries.

October 18, 2012|By Gary Goldstein
  • A scene from "A Whisper to a Roar."
A scene from "A Whisper to a Roar." (Handout )

The pro-Democracy documentary "A Whisper to a Roar" is a vivid reminder of the late-19th century quote "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." It's doubtful, however, that citation's author, British historian Lord Acton, could have imagined just how devastatingly corrupt some governments could — and would — eventually become.

Writer-director Ben Moses, inspired by the work of executive producer and prominent author and democracy scholar Larry Diamond, travels to five disparate countries whose authoritarian regimes have spawned, over the last decade, such native egalitarian movements as the Orange Revolution and the Arab Spring.

The movie interweaves disturbing, often unconscionable reports from each trouble spot as brave citizens (including students, social networkers and other homegrown crusaders), media types and political figures become enmeshed in battles — some verbal and emotional, others with physical consequences — against several of the world's most infamous autocrats: Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Ukraine's Leonid Kuchma and, to an arguably lesser extent, Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad.

National elections tainted by various levels of voter suppression, systematic manipulation and other vast improprieties also unnervingly factor in to each country's story.

An impressive array of archival news footage, enlightening interviews with activists, politicos, academics and journalists, plus a dispensable Alfred Molina-narrated animated parable, round out this provocative, if at times overly ambitious effort.

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"A Whisper to a Roar." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes. At Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood.

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