The Financial Times has launched a new short film series on the fragility of democracy, featuring leading global authors Margaret Atwood, Elif Shafak, Lola Shoneyin, and comedian Aditi Mittal. We find out more.
More people across the world will get the opportunity to vote in 2024 than in any year in history, with half the world heading to the polls at some point during the year.
But democracy is still fragile, and its definition differs depending on who you engage with – an issue The Financial Times set out to explore when it commissioned four short films from Attwood, fellow authors Elif Shafak and Lola Shoneyin and comedian Aditi Mittal.
No stranger to writing about totalitarian extremes, Margaret Atwood's segment focuses on the forces that feed the far right and far left, the electorate's appetites for dictatorships and demonstrates how democracy can be eroded when people are fooled into thinking authoritarianism is a preferred option. She urges viewers to 'call the bluff' of leaders who tell us otherwise.
Turkish novelist Elif Shafak focuses on the overwhelming pace of technological advances, including AI, and the need to take lessons on connectivity and corroboration from the natural world. She argues that the ballot box alone, and the ability to vote, does not automatically signify a democracy when "populist demagoguery wants to divide everyone into clashing polarities."
"Democracy can vanish in a gunshot" is one of the grim musings in the lyrical segment by Nigerian poet Lola Shoneyin, who references several conflicts that sought to suppress democracy and the empty promises dictators made about returning power to the people.
She concludes: "Some of us have walked this road before; we remember the wailing of the dispossessed, the disenfranchised, the disappeared."
Aditi Mittal uses comedy to sketch out generational attitudes to democracy, playing both an Indian daughter and father in her short sketch: the daughter fighting for a democracy in which women can thrive, and her father, who defends autocracy and calls out hypocrisy in imperfect Western democracies.
FT editor Roula Khalaf comments: "As we look ahead to 2024 and the historic number of global elections, this series of powerful and thought-provoking films astutely captures the essence of democracy and what it means to each and every one of us. Democracy, 2024 is part of a broader editorial initiative to equip voters with expert commentary, analysis and data in what will be an unprecedented year for democracies around the world."
The films were directed by Juliet Riddell, head of new formats at the FT, and produced in collaboration with a number of artists, including experiential art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast and musician Made Kuti. Previous films written and directed by Juliet Riddell include the BAFTA-nominated drama People You May Know and the award-winning film Capture, which explored child safety online.
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