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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.

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
Cinema Arts Centre Huntington NY January 3, 2019
JCC of Manhattan New York NY January 8, 2019
IFC Center New York NY Opens January 16 2019
Jacob Burns Film Center Pleasantville NY January 17, 2019
Brattle Theatre Cambridge MA Feb 1-7, 2019
Gene Siskel Film Center Chicago IL February 15-21, 2019
Laemmle Royal Theatre Los Angeles CA February 25-26, 2019
City Arts & Lectures San Francisco CA February 28, 2019
CMU International Film Festival Pittsburgh PA March 21-24, 2019
Northwest Film Forum Seattle WA March 29-31, 2019