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WARSAW 2017 Documentary Competition

Freedom for the Wolf: Death for the sheep


- Rupert Russell's epic documentary explores what democracy and freedom mean today across four continents

Freedom for the Wolf: Death for the sheep

Freedom for the Wolf [+see also:
film profile
, the first feature documentary by British filmmaker Rupert Russell (son of legendary director Ken Russell) is a film that covers huge geographical and political ground as it explores the issues of freedom and democracy in today's world. It world-premiered at the Sheffield Doc/Fest and is now screening in Warsaw Film Festival's Documentary Competition.

Taking Isaiah Berlin's famous warning, "freedom for the wolves has often meant death for the sheep" as the premise, Russell provides an in-depth look at what the elusive idea of freedom means today across four continents: from the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, through to what we now recognise to be the beginning of a failed Arab Spring in Tunisia, to Hindu nationalism in India, the almost unbelievable No Dancing Law in Japan, and culminating with racial tensions and Trump's presidency in the States.

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Russell uses a journalistic approach, always giving both sides the chance to speak, but doing so within a context that leaves the audience in no doubt as to where he stands. We are first introduced to the concept of "illiberal democracy" in Hong Kong, where an official of the pro-Beijing New People's Party explains that they do indeed have a democracy, as the people are free to choose one of three candidates in elections. But a representative reveals that all three candidates are selected by the party. 

In Tunisia, a video blogger and a rapper are arrested and tortured for their messages and lyrics, and a government official explains that "when we say freedom, we mean relative freedom," underlining his perceived compatibility of Islam and democracy. 

In India, a couple of comedians are threatened and accused for making inappropriate jokes on a hugely popular public show, where famous Bollywood stars are "roasted" for their physical appearance and sexual preferences. A ruling party leader proclaims at a rally that the "Hindu population must not drop below 80%," painting the Muslim minority as a demographic threat. 

In Japan, young people rebel against the No Dancing Law, which was put into place after the Second World War, and was loosely enforced until a series of celebrity drug scandals and brawls in the early 2000s provoked a police crackdown on nightclubs. The law was finally lifted in 2015. 

This all leads to the final and most topical segment on racial tensions in the States, with a focus on the Ferguson unrest and the system of Super PACs that, among other things, lead to Trump's election. 

Freedom for the Wolf is an indispensable documentation of the current tumult around the world, thoroughly researched, convincing and surprisingly enlightening. It shows us the depth of events unfolding with increasing speed, so much so that another such film may be needed very soon. 

It was produced by Berlin-based Bulldog Agenda Production in association with the UK-US company Observatory. Israel's Cinephil has the international rights.

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