Reviews

DVD Considering DemocracyBooklist

March 1, 2009, Media – Video Review, 3.5 Stars out of 4

Filmmaker Keya Lea Horiuchi interview citizens in 10 countries (including Australia and Nepal) to get their candid takes on he United States in this thought-provoking documentary. She asks viewers to consider (and to query their congressional representatives) eight hot topics, including legislated vacation time, universal health care, unbiased media coverage, foreign-policy spending, supplying weapons to warring nations campaign finances, corporate influence and lobbyists. The interviewees share their views of America (gleaned from visits, interactions with tourists and news reports), speaking incredulously about expensive hospital visits, long working hours, and slanted journalism. Onscreen graphics compare U.S. spending with other countries and cite the growing influence of corporations on Capitol Hill. The U.S. is not always seen in a flattering light, adding fuel to follow-up discussions.

-Candace Smith
YA/C: A great way to get kids talking about U.S policies and economic issues. CS.


Rockin' jurors for the Big Muddy Film FestivalBig Muddy Film Festival, February 2008

- Winner John Michaels Award

http://bigmuddyfilm.com/30th-2008/index.htm
Invited 2009 Big Muddy Film Festival Juror, with Wendell B. Harris Jr. and Ines Sommer

A timely film in this election season, CONSIDERING DEMOCRACY journeys from the Beltway corridors of power to ten countries around the globe to see how the United States stacks up and to ask why things aren’t better here. Filmmaker Horiuchi avoids a dry civics-lesson approach through her own lively onscreen presence, her skillful integration of face-in-the-crowd interviews, and her ability to bring key issues to life in a vivid and comprehensible manner. This is a film designed to stimulate discussion, and Horiuchi will be on hand to host the post-screening Q&A. Mini-DV video. (MR)

Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, Writeup October 2008



Ironweed Films logo

Considering Democracy was also a part of Iron Weed Film Club’s October 08 DVD

Iron Weed Film Club is a great organization that curates independent films and for subscribers, will send out a compilation DVD every month.  I was invited to write a blog entry about the Considering Democracy screening experience.

Video Librarian

March – April 2009, Vol.24, No. 2
Young Americans get their game on in two engaging new documentaries

With Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Americans are embracing the hope that the new boss won’t, as the Who put it, be the same as the old boss, politically speaking. Two new documentaries follow a high school political race and accompany a young woman taking stock of world opinion on various U.S. policies.

Incorporating interviews with people from around the world, Considering Democracy raises questions about the quality of American democratic life compared to that in other industrialized nations.

Young filmmaker Keya Lea Horiuchi challenges viewers to question assumptions about healthcare, work hours and vacation time, the accuracy and scope of commercially-supported news, American foreign policy and aid, the influence of corporate campaign financing on U.S. domestic policies, and the “revolving door” through which many legislators become lobbyists (or vice versa). The eight suggested questions for “refreshing your dialogue” with American politicians include: “Can we have universal healthcare?”, “How is it that we have 24-hour news channels yet get so litter information?” and “Why are my tax dollars going to fund weapons for other countries?”

In numerous interviews with citizens from Europe, Asia, Canada, and Australia, Americans are described as being rather ignorant of the world outside their borders, and unaware of the global impact of American foreign policies. Although clearly critical of the recent Bush administration, the documentary nevertheless maintains a positive, good-humored, hopeful tone as it tackles difficult issues, backed with supporting statistics and facts. DVD extras include deleted footage and additional comments by Horiuchi. Highly recommended. Aud: H, C, P. (M. Puffer-Rothenberg)


KBOO Radio Interview Community Radio for Portland, Oregon, Cascadia

http://kboo.fm/node/10082

“Considering Democracy” makes Arizona premiere in Best of Fest

Film Festival to host important, timely political documentary on Aug. 5; director to attend

The Sedona International Film Festival is proud to present the Arizona premiere of the award-winning documentary feature “Considering Democracy: 8 Things to Ask Your Representative” as part of its “Best of Fest” film series. There will be two screenings of the film at 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. on Aug. 5 at Harkins Sedona Six Theatres.

The film’s director, Keya Lea Horiuchi, will be in Sedona to host the movie and present a Q&A discussion following the screenings.

“This is a call to get involved. At this critical time in U.S. history, just before an important Presidential and Congressional election in November, 2008, this movie can be a stimulus to dialogue,” said Jane Ginn, member of the festival’s film selection committee.

While the U.S. is the most flaunted democracy in the world, how do we compare with, and what does the rest of the world think of U.S. foreign and domestic policy? Americans are continually told through their media that freedom and democracy are being given to people abroad, but is it true? This documentary takes a look.

Ever since Alexis DeTocqueville traveled across the U.S. in the early 1800s to chronicle democracy in America our great experiment in governance has been a source of wonder and envy among citizens of other nations. The pragmatism, optimism and hope that is so much a part of our national character was forged through the assimilation of multiple cultures and nurtured through our westward expansion. DeTocqueville caught the crest of that wave of expansion and through, his book Democracy in America, stimulated decades of intellectual discourse on the meaning of democracy to nations around the world.

Keya Lea Horiuchi, in a more modern rendition of this experiment, turns the perspective on its head. In her 2008 film Considering Democracy: 8 Things to Ask Your Representative, she reverses the perspective. To accomplish this she traveled the world for 5 months video-documenting a sampling of man- or woman-on-the-street impressions of America; thereby looking in from the outside.

In the course of making this film she traveled to Australia, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Indonesia, India, Japan, Nepal and Thailand. What is so stimulating about her treatment of the material is her grouping of these impressions into thematic elements.

Through her line of questioning she covers such disparate topics as healthcare, foreign policy, foreign aid, media, campaign finance, lobbying and legislation, and working hours for labor. The material is edited into crisp and sometimes disarming arrays of widely disparate views. Importantly, she points out some of the current trends in a manner that helps the viewer reflect on these patterns, and their own role or place within that framework.

She then uses these themes and the compiled data to formulate questions viewers can pose to their own U.S. Congressional representatives. By doing this she artfully moves the subject matter from a strictly entertainment or educational arena into a framework for dialogue and action. The web of topics that she covers provides ample interest to citizens of many different persuasions for getting involved and making their voice heard and their vote count.

Horiuchi will be in Sedona to conduct a Q&A discussion following both screenings. Once a schoolteacher previously working on the Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico and Montrose, CO, Horiuchi got caught up in documentary films. Her first film, “Red Tibet, Free Tibet,” went on to critical and audience acclaim in film festivals all across the U.S. and Canada . She is having the same good fortune with “Considering Democracy” which is on a multi-city tour leading up to the November elections.


What does the world think of us?

By JON POTTER, Reformer Staff, Brattleboro Reformer, Vermont, Saturday, September 20, 2008

BRATTLEBORO — Keya Lea Horiuchi covers a lot of ground in her film, “Considering Democracy” — health care, the media, vacation time, foreign policy, foreign aid, campaign finance, lobbying and Capitol Hill ethics.

Not to mention all the miles between the United States and Australia, Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Indonesia, India, Japan, Nepal and Thailand.

She’s edited the results of her multi-year journey and multi-themed exploration into a swift-moving, thought-provoking hour-long documentary that she will present Sunday at 4 p.m., at the Latchis Theatre.

Armed only with curiosity, gumption and camera equipment, Horiuchi cashed in her retirement savings from her years as a teacher and embarked on a four-month journey to 10 countries in 2004. The trip was inspired by her love of travel and by a desire to test the truthfulness of things she was hearing about America.

“I was motivated by the desire to learn a little bit more about what the rest of the world thought about us. I kept hearing, ‘Oh, they hate us for what we have’ or ‘Oh, they hate us for our freedoms.’ I wanted to know: Is that really true?”

Horiuchi chose countries where she knew people who could help her or where she knew it would be inexpensive to travel. Her methodology was certainly unscientific, but it was definitely street-level research which found voices rarely heard in this country.

Often, finding people was as simple as striking up a conversation with strangers, getting permission to interview them and then hearing their thoughts on the basic question: What do you think about America?

“In Sydney, I bought a bus pass and waited for people to sit next to me,” she said. For the most part, she was able to find people willing to help, although she also ran into her share of resistance. “A few people, both from the First World and the Developing World, asked me if I was from the CIA,” she said.

From the hours of footage she gathered, she cut out “the angry stuff.” She wanted a film that would present genuine, honest discussion of people’s views of the United States and how things like health care, worker’s rights, media coverage, foreign policy, campaign finance and the way democracy seems to work here were perceived.

The conversations in the film have a disarming candor and an intriguing tone.

“They definitely feel empathy for us. … They realize there’s a lack of free flow of information from the media here,” she said. “When I was traveling, there was empathy, as well as a little bit of anger … and puzzlement, not being able to understand why we would do things the way we do.”

Horiuchi organized these thoughts into eight basic questions people here can put to those in power — the film is subtitled “8 Things to Ask Your Representative.” The questions are as direct and straightforward as “Why can’t we have national health care?” “Why can’t Americans have four weeks of vacation like workers in other countries?” “Why don’t we get more international news in the media?”

While the questions might seem to come from a particular political slant, the intent, Horiuchi said, was simply to start conversations about these issues — which she has been doing as she’s taken the film from city to city and town to town across the country.

“The American reaction is quite fascinating. … I think we are very polarized as a nation. The reactions are very varied,” she said. “It’s a matter of getting people to speak to one another in a nice manner. … Discussion has really been discouraged in the United States.”

But not when Horiuchi rolls into town. Post-film discussion is an important of every stop she makes, and she expects a lively one after Sunday’s 4 p.m. screening at the Latchis.

To keep the dialogue going, she has also put together discussion menus and an activity guide at the film’s Web site, www.consideringdemocracy.com.


Wake-up call

September 11, 2008, Columbia Daily Tribune
Providing ample fuel for some much-needed debates, “Considering Democracy: 8 Things to Ask Your Representative” takes a thoughtful look at the United States through the eyes of others. By the end of the film, one truth becomes evident: Our perception of the world –- and ourselves – is quite different than how we are perceived by the world.

This is the debut documentary from Keya Lea Horiuchi, a former educator on the Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico. For the film, four years in the making, Horiuchi ventured to 10 countries – Australia, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Indonesia, India, Japan, Nepal and Thailand – to conduct candid interviews with average citizens about their perception of America.

Topics broached include health care, values, political finance and much more. Each segment ends with nonpartisan, point-blank questions Horiuchi urges viewers to ask their elected officials. Perhaps a sequel will reveal their answers.

Some subjects garner predictable responses, like Canadians or Australians who are aghast that Americans are charged so much for health care, or even worse, turned away from hospitals for lack of insurance. There also are some jarring revelations about the transparency of many foreign governments – in terms of policy decisions, corporate influence and where tax dollars are spent – that will make you question whether we truly live in a free society.

Throughout it all, Horiuchi supplements her findings with charts, graphs and statistical data, and does a good job keeping the material from becoming too dry or sluggish. Despite its meager budget, the film boasts unusually high production values, filled with crisp photography, professional editing and above-average sound quality.

“Considering Democracy” does a great job of exposing many truths and misconceptions about the United States, from the outside looking in, as well as our own culturally influenced observations. It’s all food for thought and a call to action that shouldn’t be missed. – Scott A. May


During the first presidential debate, Barack Obama noted that the US is “less respected now than we were eight years ago” and promised to “restore America ‘s standing.” However, while polling data indicates that anti-American sentiment has blossomed during the Bush Administration, America ‘s standing in the world has been less than stellar for decades. A new documentary, Considering Democracy: 8 Things to Ask Your Representative, details just what the rest of the globe thinks about us. A fast-paced jaunt through the realm of public opinion, the informative film features ordinary citizens from ten countries discussing how the US measures up on eight issues, including the revolving-door phenomenon, work and vacation time, and health care.
– Suzanne Niemoth, Flavorpill – Chicago, October 2008


Film picks apart U.S. democracy

Documentary about the government will be shown tonight in Salem
By Ron Cowan • Statesman Journal, October 22, 2008

America has gotten used to the idea of being the leader of the free world and the leader of how to do things that work.

Filmmaker Keya Lea Horiuchi, who made a career of teaching on the Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico, questions those assumptions with simplicity and clarity in the new documentary “Considering Democracy: 8 Things to Ask Your Representative.”

It will be shown tonight at Salem Cinema, with the fimmaker on hand to answer questions.
Although made on a shoestring budget, “Considering Democracy” was filmed in the United States, Australia, Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Indonesia, India, Japan, Nepal and Thailand.
Horiuchi is the director, camera operator, writer, editor and narrator.

Although she doesn’t necessarily break new ground — Michael Moore’s “Sicko” made similar comparisons on health issues — Horiuchi’s film makes the issues fresh by talking to foreign residents puzzled by some of our policies, such as the lack of unvarnished reporting of world issues, inadequate health care and contradictory foreign military aid.

The eight topics are vacation, health care, media, foreign policy, foreign aid, campaign finance, lobbying and legislation, and “the revolving door” — former Congress members and federal officials transitioning into lobbying.

Viewers probably will be astonished by the comparison between the more liberal vacation/maternity-leave policies overseas and the cheap, accessible health care common in other nations.

Horiuchi also talks about how our increasing corporate ownership of media — GE is a sterling example — blurs too many boundaries between vested interests and public responsibility.

The revolving door between public officials and lobbyists is disturbing as well. Again, much of this is familiar territory, but it’s refreshing to see it through foreign eyes and with such precision.


Americans take for granted that democracy is the best and freest form of government. Filmmaker Keya Lea Horicuchi challenges this view in Considering Democracy: 8 Things to Ask Your Representative, a documentary exploring such topics as health care, foreign policy and legislation through the eyes of the outside world. Horicuchi (who nearly went broke making this film) traveled the globe interviewing people from countries as far-flung as Egypt and Nepal, collecting widely disparate views in hopes of stimulating intellectual discourse about democracy. JL 3 p.m. Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., N. Oakland . $6. 412-681-5449 or www.pghfilmmakers.org

Pittsburgh City Paper, October 2-9, 2008


“Considering Democracy,” screening Tuesday at Friends Meeting House
By Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, online Sept 11, 2008

Many people who say that the United States is the greatest country on earth have never actually been to another country. Documentary filmmaker Keya Lea Horiuchi recently visited 10 countries to see how the rest of the world functions–and to hear what it thinks of the U.S. Her gently inquisitive film “Considering Democracy” screens for free at 8 p.m. Tuesday evening, Sept. 16 at the Friends Meeting House, 1001 Park Avenue.

With a minimum of editorial intrusion, she turned on the cameras and asked average citizens in places like Germany, Australia, the Dominican Republic, India, Japan and Lebanon some simple quality of life questions, such as how much vacation time they receive, how much they pay for health care and who controls their news media. Then she compares the data with that of the United States.
Horiuchi, who is traveling from Colorado to attend the screening, says she intended the film to “refresh and recharge” our dialogue about national priorities before the upcoming election. A barnstorming tour of heartland meeting halls sounds like a very American enterprise to me. You can read more about the film and the issues it raises at consideringdemocracy.com.


How do your workplace benefits stack up against those of work in Australia?  How does your healthcare compare to that of France, especially the cost of prescription drugs?  Intrepid “girl with a camera” Keya Lea Horiuchi visits 10 countries around the globe, asking vital questions about work, leisure, health, the media and foreign policy, then setting out to find the answers.  The writer-director-editor-narrator, who previously worked as a schoolteacher on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico, means for the film to start salon discussion in living rooms and coffee houses across America; she will host the Nashville screening 7 p.m. Sunday, May 18 upstairs at Bongo Java with discussion to follow.  See the movie’s site at consideringdemocracy.com for questions, links and more information.  (Jim Ridley)
Nashville Scene, May 15, 2008


A big hit

Atlanta, GA
A Considering Democracy in Decatur, GA hosting review

It was one of our best – great group of people attended and almost all stayed after the film for a Q & A with Keya, the film maker. It was great having her at our screening, and the discussion lasted about an hour. She is on the road now so if you can get her to come your way, do it. Several people bought copies of the film from here and plan on hosting their own screenings-that is always a good thing.

Questions for the host:
Q: Why did you host this screening? What were your goals?
A: My reasons are always the same-to present information in a relaxed friendly atmosphere where people are encouraged to share their thoughts, discuss, even arguing is ok. Then to take what they have learned/experienced to others-and show the films to their friends/family.

Q: Any additional materials you could have used?
A: No-the film website is loaded with info and links to more. There are discussion questions, further reading and stats all for you to ponder.

Q: Any ideas on how you can use “Considering Democra” in the future?
A: Yes-continue screening it, and really pose the questions raised in the film to people running or office.

Q: Any advice for future screening hosts?
A: Just do it-it’s easy and it is fun-and if you can get Keya to come that is bonus.

*From Brave New Theaters, all the letters in the title won’t fit, so it’s either Consider Democracy or Considering Democra.


Considering Democracy: 8 Things To Ask Your Representative (Not rated, 58 min.) This pointedly pre-presidential-election documentary looks at the image of the U.S. in the world, and asks viewers to examine their expectations about foreign policy, health care and other issues. Director Keya Lea Horiuchi — who traveled across 10 countries to shoot the film — will introduce the movie and lead a post-screening discussion. Sponsored by Indie Memphis.
Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, Friday, May 16, 2008


Touring Doc Comes to Oxford

BY MELANIE ADDINGTON
, The Oxford Town, May 23, 2008
“Considering Democracy: 8 Things to Ask Your Representative,” the new documentary by Keya Lea Horiuchi screened in Oxford at the Powerhouse on Tuesday to a small crowd. The new director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Wayne Andrews, was on hand and joined in the lively conversation about politics, media, corporations and world views of Americans. The documentary takes us to various parts of the world to see how people think about Americans.

However, the film goes further in finding eight inter-connected ideas on American values, lifestyle and politics. The film is broken into segments that end with the questions we should be asking as elections draw closer.

Horiuchi interweaves the ideas to make a cohesive one hour story. As part of the discussion after the film, an audience member asked if she felt she was preaching to the choir in showing this film, “because I bet you there is not one Republican in this audience.”  The filmmaker looked out at the audience as we all shook our head in agreement. “Oddly enough, I’m a registered Republican,” she revealed.

Horiuchi brought the film here as part of the national tour due to the debates. She’s been touring from state to state with the film for two years. Before becoming a filmmaker she was a teacher on the Navajo Indian Reservation.  She started on the film in 2004. “I thought this is great, it’s such a great medium, I’m going to quit my job and travel around the world and see what other people think [about Americans],” said Horiuchi. She toured the world for about five months until she ran out of her retirement fund. “I don’t know what drives me really.” However, as part of her traveling, she hopes to open up the dialogue with voters.

Several audience members asked questions about her travels and what she didn’t show on camera.  “More often than not people were willing to give their point of view. But, by and large, a lot of interesting things happened when I put the camera away,” she said. “When you are traveling you do see the effects of our foreign policy.”

Horiuchi is considering bringing the film back to Oxford as the debates draw closer. For now, you can see clips and find out more information about the film at http://consideringdemocracy.com.


‘Democracy’ looks at others’ impressions of the U.S.

By Chris Starrs | Athens Banner-Herald Correspondent | May 15, 2008

Filmmaker Keya Lea Horiuchi says she wasn’t necessarily out to change minds when she created the documentary “Considering Democracy,” but she definitely was intent on raising the stakes in terms of creating a dialogue.

The 60-minute “Considering Democracy” (which is subtitled “8 Things to Ask Your Representative”) starts with an interesting premise: “What does the rest of the world think of the United States?”

Through the film’s eight “chapters” (which include topics like health care, media, foreign policy, foreign aid and campaign finance), Horiuchi asks regular folks from around the world their perceptions of America with the hope that her questions and their answers will generate domestic debate.

“The film does seek to create discussion,” says Horiuchi during a recent telephone interview. “And the film hopes to get people more information, and hopefully, we can point clearly in the direction that we’d like to go. The film asks a lot of questions that I don’t have answers for, but I do hope it will create civil discussion toward solutions.”

Horiuchi, who cashed in her retirement account to cart a digital video camera through 10 different countries to collect footage for “Considering Democracy,” will visit Ciné with her film on Friday to field questions and initiate discussion at a trio of screenings.

She’s been on the road promoting both her film and a national dialogue for the past month and says despite any viewer’s political persuasion, there are plenty of items for concern – most notably the pervasive influence of titanic corporations on elections, legislation and media – in the film.

“With this cut of the film, we’ve had sympathetic audiences, regardless of political party,” she says. “I think many people see corporate personhood as chilling. … We haven’t had that many argumentative people in our audiences. They’re mainly saying, ‘Wow!’”

“Considering Democracy” has been screened at the Beloit (Wis.) Film Festival and the Big Muddy Film Festival in Carbondale, Ill., where it received the John Michaels Award for its examination of social and political issues.

Horiuchi packs a lot of dialogue and information in the documentary but says she was careful during the editing process to keep from creating a “depressing” film.

“Seeing other documentaries was somewhat depressing,” she says. “That’s not a good way to get anything done. I struggled with this for a long time. Digital filmmaking is very empowering, but it’s also very humbling. During the (editing) process, I lost my objectivity, so I took a work-in-progress cut to a lot of screenings, got a lot of feedback and tried to make a film that works for a lot of audiences.

”

Utilizing the same do-it-yourself ethic to promote “Considering Democracy” as she did to create it, Horiuchi has been carting the film throughout the country in hopes of raising the bar on debate, especially with a critical presidential election in November.

“The old model for filmmakers was to hope to be included at festivals and then find a distributor,” she said. “But distributors are turning into media conglomerates and aren’t really picking up on interesting films. So I decided to push it myself, which is a scary process. I don’t know what will happen next, but it’s been good fun.”

It might not seem that a film featuring a host of international talking heads discussing the state of the union would be a big draw on a Friday night, but Horiuchi says her film isn’t an arid distillation of facts designed to generate disagreement.

“It’s entertaining and very relevant to our everyday lives,” she says. “And I hope it will create discussion about the things that are important in our lives and that people will be able to discuss it and still remain friends.”


In the Beloit Festival, we went to another documentary, with a similar theme and write up to yours,  where people went around the world and asked what others thought of America.  The result was a hodge podge of views, and basically we got out of it what we already knew – attitudes to the US vary, some based on knowledge and first hand experience, others based on stereotypes and information gleaned from the media (which can be biased overseas, too!).  We felt quite differently about your film.  What was excellent was your thematic approach, and your use of facts.  I was also glad  to see you gave your sources for statistics, etc.  And the film sequenced very well and logically from a quite simple and specific beginning – mandatory vacation entitlement - until you wrapped  everything into the whole issue of democracy. 
-GB, Wisconsin


I liked everything about this film.  It touched accurately on all these issues that are so important.  Finally a film that hits directly on all the top issues that affect us as Americans.  As people. 
-JC, Colorado