Over the course of more than three years director Camilla Nielsson has been up close in the inner circles of politics in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. With the process of creating Zimbabwe’s new constitution as the film’s narrative backbone, DEMOCRATS tells the unique story of the political elite in Zimbabwe fighting the battle over the founding principles defining the country’s possible future.
Following one of Africa’s bloodiest elections, the foundation of a coalition government in 2008 ñ to date a purely symbolic gesture by autocrat Robert Mugabe to the opposition party MDC ñ brought with it a call for a new constitution, one that is supported by the entire population of Zimbabwe. Top politicians spearheading the process, Paul Mangwana of Mugabeís ZANU-PF party and MDC representative Douglas Mwonzora, traveled together throughout the country to ask Zimbabweans in special meetings about their opinions on matters such as the organization of the judicial system and the presidentís authority. The camera follows the two men ñ sometimes together, sometimes separately ñ as they undertake their gargantuan task. It quickly becomes clear that ZANU-PF is not above influencing the opinions of participants at the meetings. Overcoming their initial suspicion, a kind of understanding grows between the two men ñ particularly when it appears that Mangwana is also the target of intimidation by ZANU-PF supporters. In addition, his own party accuses him of fraternizing with the enemy ñ which in Zimbabwe is practically a death sentence. It also becomes apparent that Mwonzora is in no way protected from Mugabeís machinations.
Democrats screened at IDFA 2014 in Amsterdam from the 23-30 November.
The film had a UK broadcast on BBC 4 January 2015.