“A Whisper to a Roar” traces a too-familiar step-by-step political pattern: the transformation of a liberator into a despot, his subsequent reign of tyranny and the popular uprising against it. Using examples from Malaysia, the Ukraine, Egypt, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, helmer Ben Moses discovers enough similarities to validate this formula and enough differences to avoid repetition. But given the numerous disparities in ethnological context and political outcome, the multinational focus tends to dissipate his pro-active, pro-democratic message. Docu opened Oct. 12 at Gotham’s Quad Cinema.
Beginning with an animated fable about dragons and dragon slayers, narrated by Alfred Molina, Moses interweaves talking-head accounts, studded with archival materials, of how various figurative dragon slayers came into office. What follows are fascinating rundowns of how, once in power, these newborn strongmen deployed tactics that included leveling charges of sodomy against a Malaysian reformer; covert dioxin poisoning of a Ukrainian candidate; slaughtering opposition supporters in Zimbabwe; and gerrymandering a minority of votes into majority rule in Venezuela. The people nobly persist in demanding democracy, but the ensuing results, though stirring, remain chillingly inconclusive.