Over the course of more than three years, 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.

Director's Statement

We in the West sometimes have a hard time understanding why it is so difficult to create a viable democracy in other parts of the world. The democratic values we ourselves accept in a democracy as a matter of course – that there are three branches of government, that we have freedom of expression and assembly, our civil rights generally – are not taken for granted everywhere on the globe. DEMOCRATS is a sort of a primer – a form of basic research – into how difficult it is to create democracy.

Democracy is not something you can bomb your way into or something that can be decided from an office at the UN or in Brussels. It has to start from within and from below. But even in countries such as Zimbabwe – with one of the bravest and most persistent and hard-working democratic movements in the world, ordinary civil rights continue to be a daily struggle.

DEMOCRATS is about two men who, after 30 years with one of the world’s most autocratic dictators, President Robert Mugabe in power, try to establish a democracy from the ground up – while anti-democratic forces still have control of the country. It is the story of a relationship, of two men who have been sent out on an impossible mission.

At the same time, it is a portrait of two very different political cultures: through one of the protagonists, Paul Mangwana, we gain insight into an otherwise very closed political culture – Mugabe’s ZANU-PF – an old resistance movement party that still acts with impunity thanks to its role in the struggle for liberation from former colonial powers. Through the other protagonist, Douglas Mwonzora, we gain insight into one of the world’s best and most tenacious democratic movements, the opposition party MDC-T.

Even though the mission of introducing democracy failed, there is still hope in the offing. These former political enemies find each other through a newly-forged political dialogue. An autocratic party such as ZANU-PF, which has been in power since the country gained independence from Britain, is not used to being in dialogue with the opposition. But through the process of creating a constitution, they were forced to talk with each other and make compromises, and the political culture it created is a huge step forward for the country. So even though Mugabe is still in power and the new democratic constitution has not been implemented, the process has not been a waste of time. A democratic seed has been planted in the red soil of Zimbabwe.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Camilla Nielsson

Written by: Camilla Nielsson

Produced by: Henrik Veileborg

Cinematography: Henrik Bohn Ipsen

Editing: Jeppe Bødskov

Original Score: Kristian Selin Eidnes Andersen

Nominations and Awards

  • Documentary Selection 2015