How to Start Your Own Country

Docu may be a one-joke movie but should have little trouble finding a niche on cable.

From the “ecclesiastical principality” of Seborga to the Republic of Molossia (1.3 acres of Nevada), various “micro-nations” are examined in the often entertaining “How to Start Your Own Country.” Docu may be a one-joke movie (how eccentric/egomaniacal/deluded do you have to be to start a country?) but, at an economical 72 minutes, should have little trouble finding a niche on cable.

Helmer Jody Shapiro executes an admirable tightrope walk, mining the humor in his would-be sovereigns without ridiculing them, and the entire issue of defining “country” (“Like defining humanity,” as one subject puts it) is treated more amusingly than not. Neither Palestine nor Chechnya, for instance, gets much attention here, although they are also unrecognized by other nations, as is the Hutt River Principality (75 square kilometers of wheat farm in Western Australia). Border wars are unlikely in the Kingdom of North Dumpling, which sits in Long Island Sound, and U.N. membership might be an elusive goal for the New Free State of Caroline, which exists only in the mind of founder Gregory Green and his “citizenry.” They are, however, essential parts of this well-made docu.

How to Start Your Own Country


  • Production: A Documentary presentation of a Buffalo Gals/Everyday Pictures production. (International sales: Recreation/the Film Collaborative, Los Angeles.) Produced by Phyllis Laing, Jody Shapiro. Co-producer, Denis Seguin. Directed by Jody Shapiro. Written by Shapiro, Denis Seguin.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD), John Gurdebeke; editor, Robert Swartz; music, Howie Beck. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Real to Reel), Sept. 10, 2010. Running time: 72 MIN.
  • With: With: Kevin Baugh, Dean Kamen, Prince Leonard, Giorgio Pistone, Gregory Green.