What is democracy? That is the question more than 900 people from 95 countries answered by submitting original, short videos to the first Democracy Video Challenge. The competition was sponsored by several private groups in the United States as well as the U.S. State Department. Six winners were selected from different regions of the world.
The videos that won the Democracy Video Challenge show that democracy can be interpreted in many ways, such as by fruits blended together, or a tree planted in the desert.
The winners come from Zambia, Brazil, Nepal, Poland, Philippines and the United Arab Emirates.
Zambian Chansa Tembo owns a small video production business. He compares democracy to a blend of different fruits called a smoothie. "And I thought about democracy, and I thought we all have to get along somehow. You might not like an orange, you might not like a banana by itself, but if you combine different fruits together, you might actually be able to produce something which is consumable by the whole society," he states.
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handed out the awards and quoted some of the words about democracy in the videos. "It is fueled by the voice of the masses. It empowers the individual to make the individual powerful. It's a smoothie, 'I like that,' blending philosophical ideas, cultural norms and aesthetic values," Mrs. Clinton said.
Photographer Rodin Hamidi lives in the United Arab Emirates. He left his native Iran three years ago because of a lack of creative freedom. His video shows that democracy requires persistence, even when others try to destroy it.
"Everywhere you can plant this tree of democracy, which I use as a symbol. The guy is the symbol of intellectuals, people who believe in democracy. He's responsible for planting a plant, even if there are so many obstacles in his way," Hamidi states.
Lukasz Szozda is a video animator from Poland. His video maintains that democracy incorporates many ideas. "There are some simple truths in it that can be used for good like tolerance, freedom of speech and," he says, "freedom of decision."
Anna Carolina does Santos Israel from Brazil borrowed a non-professional camera to create her video. She used her 13 year old sister as a model and shot different parts of her body to show that democracy is about working together.
"Society has all these different parts which are made up of different people who want different things. Democracy should be a dialogue among all these parts, so they can reach a consensus," Carolina states.
The winners from Nepal and the Philippines examine the problems of democracy.
Filipino filmmaker Aissa Penafiel looks at what she believes is the abuse of democracy by her country's government. She portrays a man isolated in the darkness. "Even if there's a movement of the people, the ones in power still use democracy for their own sake, not for the sake of the people," she says, "which is completely the opposite of what democracy should be."
Magazine editor Tsering Choden from Nepal says democracy in her country is in chaos. "Because of everybody trying to move together but having different ideologies and opinions. And that chaos I thought would be shown perfectly through the traffic and the movement we have," she explains.
The winners received a free trip to the United States, and are meeting with film directors, public officials, and democracy advocates.