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What Is Democracy? asks Astra Taylor’s NFB feature doc—starting January 4 at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. Theatrical run followed by campus screenings and discussions in Montreal and Toronto.


December 17, 2018 – Montreal – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)

The film’s Toronto engagement early in the new year follows screenings at Vancouver’s Vancity Theatre, which started December 7.

After its Toronto theatrical run, What Is Democracy? will be back in the city on January 26 at Ryerson University at the DemocracyXChange Summit—a new annual event co-founded by the Open Democracy Project and the Ryerson Leadership Lab—where Taylor will deliver a keynote address, followed by an evening screening of her film.

Theorist Silvia Federici, interviewed in What Is Democracy?, joins Taylor in Montreal on January 23 for a film screening and discussion presented by Cinema Politica Concordia, with the NFB announcing more campus, community and festival events across Canada soon.

What Is Democracy? was just nominated for Best Canadian Documentary by the Vancouver Film Critics Circle, with winners announced at the VFCC’s awards ceremony on January 7.

About the film

If we want to live in democracy, we must first ask what the word even means. What Is Democracy? is an idiosyncratic, philosophical journey spanning 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.

Celebrated theorists Silvia Federici, Cornel West, Wendy Brown, and Angela Davis are joined by trauma surgeons, activists, factory workers, asylum seekers, former prime ministers and others, in a film that connects past and present, the emotional and the intellectual, the personal and the political, to provoke critical dialogue about our future.

What Is Democracy? is produced by Lea Marin and executive produced by Anita Lee for the NFB’s Ontario Studio in Toronto.

Taylor is a filmmaker, writer, and political organizer whose credits include the NFB documentary Examined Life (TIFF 2008) and Zizek! (TIFF 2005). She has a new book, Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone, forthcoming from Metropolitan Books in early 2019.

Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema schedule

January 4–10, 2019

  • Friday, January 4, 6:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 5, 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Sunday, January 6, 6:30 p.m.
  • Monday, January 7, 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Tuesday, January 8, 6:30 p.m. (with Mosaic Institute panel including Lea Marin)
  • Wednesday, January 9, 2:30 p.m. (Q&A with Astra Taylor, via Skype)
  • Thursday, January 10, 9:15 p.m.

Campus schedule

  • Montreal: Wednesday, January 23, at Concordia University, Room H-110, 1455 de Maisonneuve W., starting at 7:30 p.m., presented by Cinema Politica
    • Filmmaker Astra Taylor and Silvia Federici will be in attendance.
  • Toronto: Saturday, January 26, DemocracyXChange Summit, Ryerson University
    • Keynote address by Astra Taylor, beginning 9:15 a.m.
    • Screening, 7 p.m.

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Related Products

Electronic Press Kit | Images, trailers, synopsis: What Is Democracy?

Associated Links

Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
DemocracyXChange Summit
Cinema Politica Concordia
Vancouver Film Critics Circle
Mosaic Institute panel

Media Relations

  • About the NFB

    Founded in 1939, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is a one-of-a-kind producer, co-producer and distributor of distinctive, engaging, relevant and innovative documentary and animated films. As a talent incubator, it is one of the world’s leading creative centres. The NFB has enabled Canadians to tell and hear each other’s stories for over eight decades, and its films are a reliable and accessible educational resource. The NFB is also recognized around the world for its expertise in preservation and conservation, and for its rich and vibrant collection of works, which form a pillar of Canada’s cultural heritage. To date, the NFB has produced more than 14,000 works, 6,500 of which can be streamed free of charge at nfb.ca. The NFB and its productions and co-productions have earned over 7,000 awards, including 11 Oscars and an Honorary Academy Award for overall excellence in cinema.