Doc/Fest 2017 Review: Freedom for the Wolf

The complete quote that gives its title to this film is that freedom for the wolf, means death for the sheep. The idea that freedom can become a danger has haunted academics and campaigners in democratic nations for years. The winners in a democracy have a freedom to dominate and oppress the losers.

In Rupert Russell’s first documentary, he illustrates the dangers of the rise of what is termed the ‘Illiberal Democracy’, ending, as you might expect, with the words of Donald Trump, and reflecting on the upheaval he is creating across the Atlantic. Russell chooses the events of the recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong to start his journey around the world, where the population initially supported the students in their blockade of the Business District, but when shopkeepers and taxi drivers were losing their livelihoods, support evaporated. The Arab Spring, and a replacement government in Tunisia both raised expectations, but did not deliver on the promises they appeared to make. The failure of a revolution has added to the appeal of more radical alternatives, with the rise of ISIS being one such consequence. In India, something as innocuous as a YouTube video, leave comedians facing jail.

In this new era of populism, the film neatly brings into focus how political freedom can be a poison chalice, and we must never ignore the plight of those on the margins who are victimised. It’s an urgent and powerful message that the film delivers, interviewing activists and academics alike. Freedom to decide also includes the freedom to oppress. If you truly want people to be free, you might heed the warning to be careful what you wish for.

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