CINEMOCRACY – Of the People by the People for the People


According to The New York Times latest electoral map, there are currently only 4 states that could either swing blue or red: Ohio, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado. In 2004, Bush won Colorado by less than 5 %, and the NYT suggests that the Democrats might have a good chance of winning this state this election.

They are working hard to do so. For one, Denver, Colorado will host one of the year’s most anticipated US events – the Democratic Convention – which will take place between Monday, August 25 and Thursday, August 28.

In addition to the official convention, where 4,235 delegates will confirm the Democratic nominees for President and Vice President, numerous other events focusing on political issues and community action will be taking place in Denver:

Amongst them are daily broadcasts of The DAILY SHOW with Jon Stewart covering the convention, the COLERADO GREEN FRONTIER FEST: an exhibition featuring all things green and self-sustainable, OUTSIDE OF CONVENTION: a festival of music and word organized and hosted by the Denver Public Library, a concert by WILLIE NELSON, DIALOG: CITY-an exhibition of interactive, site specific art works dealing with important environment and social issues and much, much more. Plus there is …. CINEMOCRACY – a film festival on democracy.

Last fall, the mayor’s office in Denver conducted a series of roundtable discussions with its citizens and asked what kind of social and cultural activities they would like to see happen during the convention. These discussions produced two ideas: site specific art installations (which resulted in the DIALOG:CITY initiative) and a film event.

After a few more meetings between the presenting partners THE DENVER 2008 HOST COMMITTEE, the DENVER OFFICE OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS and the FILM SOCIETY OF DENVER the film festival idea was born.

Festival Director Britta Erickson recalls that coming up with the festival idea was easy, but finding the right name was a huge challenge. After numerous brainstorming sessions, Erickson received a phone call from Natasha Hoover, Director of Operations at the Denver Film Society. While attending the Palm Springs Film Festival Hoover had been talking to some festival guests about the festival idea – and they suggested naming it CINEMOCRACY. The name was immediately adopted and CINEMOCRACY was officially launched at this year’s SUNDANCE Film Festival, where Erickson and her team went around Park City, distributing thousands of CINEMOCRACY buttons and talking to anyone that would listen about their festival idea. A couple of months later, a CINEMOCRACY reception was hosted at the SXSW Film Festival and then again just recently at the LA Film Festival. In addition, the festival organizers utilized different social networking sites and reached out to numerous film and media organizations, promoting the initiative and asking for submissions.

Filmmakers were asked to express their opinion and ideas of democracy. But rather than curating a program, the organizers opted for an open submission process. There were no submission fees and all genres and approaches were permitted as long as the film focused on the subject of democracy, was not longer than 5 minutes, was able to be up-loaded to a website. The organizers intervened and took down films only if the content was illegal or highly objectionable. Furthermore, as stated on the website, “Profanity, illicit acts, and hate speech were not tolerated”

Asking people to marry their creativity with political ideas and participate in this online film festival is a great idea to get more people involved in the political process.

As Erickson observed, at first already existing finished films were uploaded, but as the summer started, more and more filmmakers asked for deadline extensions because they had started producing new work. And so the July deadline was moved to August 1st. In total, more than 120 films from all over the country, with a strong Denver contingent, poured in. Of the films I saw, many were documentaries with people from all walks of life talking about their ideas of democracy, offering criticism about the misuse of democracy, or looking at democracy from a historical perspective.

One interesting short was SOLD OUT by filmmaker Nick Newell
about his failure to get a ticket to the Democratic National Convention. I fully sympathize with Newell as I had exactly the same experience earlier this year, when trying to attend the convention. (

Another worthy film is SOMETIMES CLOUDY IN PHILDELPHIA, by New York based filmmaker Curtis Stiles. Shot just before the Pennsylvania primaries, the filmmaker talks to Democrats supporting either Senator Barack Obama or Senator Hillary Clinton about the chances of either candidate winning – and what they would do if their favorite candidate lost. I thought it quite puzzling to witness devoted Democrats contemplating whether to vote at all or even vote for the other party in November, in case their candidate did not receive the nomination. (

Also in the CINEMOCRACY mix is a short film starring Denver’s own Mayor John Hickenlooper offering his definition of democracy: MANY PEOPLE ONE VOICE, which doubles as the title of the film. This engaging short is produced by filmmaker and Denver Open Media’s executive director Tony Shawcross.

Appropriate to the festival’s mission, online viewers were invited to judge each film and cast their vote. On August 20th, the top ten films with the highest scores as determined by the online voters were announced. The winners are as follows:
– WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? by Skelly Aggett-Carosella, Ivar Cloudshadow, Trevor
Green, Gabe Greenberg, Noa Greenwald, Jade Hunter, Aidan McGinnis, Izaiah
Read, Sienna Richert, Emma Wilson – Boulder, CO

– DEMOCRACY IS A SPECTACLE by Joseph La Sac – Tacoma, Wash.


– IF YOU REALLY KNEW ME by Betsy Leighton – Denver, CO

– DEMOCRACY: A MARRIAGE by Isha Aran – Lakewood, CO

– DEMOKRATIA by Josh Massaro, Isaac J. Ramos, Melissa Lane, John Knauff –
Highlands Ranch, CO

– THE RIGHT TO HAVE A VOICE by Jessica Rosenberger, Austin Talley – Chicago, Ill.
– Original Music Video SUNRISE by Sylvia Florescu and Robert Florescu –
Denver, CO

– CINEMA +(DEM)OCRACY=CINEMOCRACY by Alan Dominguez – Denver, CO

– YOU CAN’T EAT FREEDOM by Martin Higgins – Lonetree, CO

In addition, CINEMOCRACY also gave out three special Award Winners. These films will also be screened at the Red Rocks event but will not be part of the final Jury Competition.

-Cinemocracy Local Awareness Award: A VISION OF DEMOCRACY by Jennifer R.S.
McDaniel – Denver, CO

-Cinemocracy Special Jury Selection: THE SHORT END OF THE SPAGHETTI by
Ryan Charmatz – Greenwood Village, CO

-Cinemocracy Best International Submission: EVERYDAY DEMOCRACY by Charlie
Timms – Gospel Oak, United Kingdom

All winning filmmakers were invited to Denver to present their films during CINEMOCRACY ON THE ROCKS, the official festival screening on Monday, August 25th at the gorgeous RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATER. In addition to the screening, there will also be a concert with THE APPLES IN STEREO, OKKERVIL RIVER and JILL SOBULE performing live.

The same evening, an independent jury of film professionals and politicians announced their pick for best film: – DEMOCRACY: A STEADY, LOVING CONFRONTATION by Jen Saffron, MFA – Pittsburgh, Penn. Saffron’s winning short will return to Denver and compete for the Starz People’s Choice Award for Best Short during the 31st STARZ DENVER INTERNTIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (November 13-23), which comes with a US$ 2,500 cash prize.

Following the huge success of CINEMOCRACY, Erickson announced that the Denver Film Society will continue CINEMOCRACY at the next open source which is planned for the beginning of 2009, again focusing on a political theme – to be announced later in the year.

For more information on CINEMOCRACY and to watch the winning films as well as the other submitted shorts, please visit:


About Author

Tanja Meding

Tanja Meding :Since moving to New York from Germany in 2003, Tanja Meding has worked as a producer for Maysles Films and other independent production companies. Amongst others, she produced SALLY GROSS-THE PLEASURE OF STILLNESS by Albert Maysles and Kristen Nutile which aired on WNET/Thirteen and Channel 25 and is now available on DVD from Since 2007, Tanja has been producing short films by Rosane Chamecki, Andrea Lerner and Phil Harder: JACKIE & JUDY premiered at DANCE ON CAMERA at LINCOLN CENTER was awarded with a PEARL at the POOL 2010 Festival in Berlin. Upcoming this September is a video installation of two new shorts: BOXING and THE COLLECTION at NY's newly opened New York Live Arts building in Chelsea. In addition, Tanja is the co-producer of Gabriella Bier's LOVE DURING WARTIME, a documentary about an Israeli dancer and her Palestinian husband. The film had its US premiere at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and is distributed in the US through 7th Art Releasing. Furthermore, she is the US co-producer of Pascale Obolo's documentary CALYPSO ROSE, LIONESS OF THE JUNGLE. Currently in development with Claudia Brazzale is RETRACING STEPS, a portrait documentary about a group of international dancers and choreographers and their lives 20 years after they first met in NYC.

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