Share this film!
Film Info
  • Year: 2018
  • Film Format: DCP, Blu-ray and DVD
  • Origin: Canada
  • Runtime: 107 mins
  • Color
  • Language: English

Coming at a moment of profound political and social crisis, What Is Democracy? reflects on a word we too often take for granted.

Director Astra Taylor’s idiosyncratic, philosophical journey spans millennia and continents: from ancient Athens’ groundbreaking experiment in self-government to capitalism’s roots in medieval Italy; from modern-day Greece grappling with financial collapse and a mounting refugee crisis to the United States reckoning with its racist past and the growing gap between rich and poor.

Featuring a diverse cast—including celebrated theorists, trauma surgeons, activists, factory workers, asylum seekers, and former prime ministers—this urgent film connects the past and the present, the emotional and the intellectual, the personal and the political, in order to provoke and inspire. If we want to live in democracy, we must first ask what the word even means.

From the director of Zizek! and Examined Life!

A Zeitgeist Films release in association with Kino Lorber. To book this film please contact Nancy Gerstman or Emily Russo or call 212-274-1989. For educational purchase please visit

Trailers (DCP and Quicktime), stills and a hi-res jpeg of the poster can be downloaded from our Dropbox.

Astra Taylor

Astra Taylor is a filmmaker, writer, and political organizer. She is the director of the philosophical documentaries What Is Democracy?, Examined Life and Zizek!; the author of the American Book Award winner The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age; and a co-founder of the Debt Collective. She has written for The New York TimesThe London Review of BooksThe GuardianThe WalrusThe Bafflern+1, and many other outlets. She is a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow and a former touring member of the band Neutral Milk Hotel. Her new book, Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone, will be out from Metropolitan Books in early 2019.

Photo by Deborah Degraffenried.

The National Film Board of Canada presents
National Film Board of Canada Production

Sound Recordist
Sanjay Mehta

Sound Design
David McCallum

Music By
Heather McIntosh

Director of Photography
Maya Bankovic

Robert Kennedy

Executive Producer
Anita Lee

Produced by
Lea Marin

Written and Directed by
Astra Taylor





Venue City State Date
Gene Siskel Film Center Chicago IL February 15-21, 2019
FilmBar Phoenix AZ Feb 18-20, 2019
Speed Art Museum Louisville KY February 22-24, 2019
Laemmle Music Hall Theatre Los Angeles CA February 22-28, 2019
Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe Santa Fe NM Feb 22-28, 2019
Laemmle Claremont Claremont CA Feb 25-26, 2019
Laemmle Town Center 5 Encino CA Feb 25-26, 2019
Laemmle Royal Theatre Los Angeles CA February 25-26, 2019
Laemmle Playhouse 7 Pasadena CA Feb 25-26, 2019
Brigham Young Univ. Provo UT Feb 27-Mar 2! 2 screenings only!
City Arts & Lectures
with filmmaker for Q&A
San Francisco CA Feb 28
Time & Space Ltd. Hudson NY Feb 28 - March 10, 2019
Roxie Cinema
with filmmaker for Q&A
San Francisco CA March 1 only
International House Philadelphia PA March 7 only with director Astra Taylor
DCTV New York City NY March 11 only with director Astra Taylor
Northwest Film Center Portland OR March 20-21, 2019
Northwest Film Forum
With filmmaker 3/23-24
Seattle WA March 21-24, 2019
Eckerd College Film Series St. Petersburg FL March 29, 2019
CMU International Film Festival Pittsburgh PA April 7, 2019
Aperture Cinema Winston Salem NC April 16 2019 only!