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January 29–February 4, 2016

Chicago Premiere


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Film still: Democrats Film still: Democrats Film still: Democrats
Best Documentary
Tribeca Film Fest
"Even the slyest political satire couldn't outdo this riveting docu study of Zimbabwe's troubled coalition government... important and impishly entertaining"
"Both accessible to those with little background on the subject and privileged enough to be of value to students of the country's history"
  —Hollywood Reporter
Critics' Pick "Both inspiring and upsetting, Democrats is, finally, a film that deserves to be called 'necessary'"
  —New York Times
"Intimate and suspenseful... as excellent a documentary about politics as you will ever see"
  —Village Voice
5 stars "Essential... a scrappy, absorbing tribute to the pragmatic value of compromise"
  —TimeOut NY
"No documentarian could have wished for more universally recognizable, Machiavellian players... a complicated portrait of democracy-in-the-making"
  —Film Journal International
"Riveting, ultimately enraging"

Over the course of more than three years, director Camilla Nielsson gained exclusive access to the inner circles of politics in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Following one of Africa's bloodiest elections, the foundation of a coalition government in 2008—to date a purely symbolic gesture by autocrat Mugabe to the opposition party MDC—brought with it a call for a new constitution, one that is supported by the entire population of Zimbabwe.

Democrats follows two political opponents, Paul Mangwana of the long-time ruling party ZANU-PF, and the Movement for Democratic Change's progressive Douglas Mwonzora, as they face the gargantuan task of writing a new constitution for the country. The process is marred from the outset: sinister theatrics from ZANU-PF corrupt a nationwide consultation designed to hear the people's voice, secret police keep a watchful eye on the proceedings, and meetings descend into violent clashes. Mangwana and Mwonzora are determined to push on, but as the drama unfolds, the high personal costs to reaching political victory become clear. Overcoming their initial suspicion, a kind of understanding grows between the two men—particularly when it appears that Mangwana is also the target of intimidation by ZANU-PF supporters.

Nielsson's observational storytelling delivers compelling insight into the political game and an engaging portrait of those Zimbabweans who are fighting for change. "I was met with enormous trust by the two negotiators. I told them that I was coming as an anthropologist to collect material. I tried to put aside all my baggage of preconceptions about Mugabe and his regime and make my film on a blank canvas. As a result they asked me inside. Viewing the ZANU people as the usual villains would only be repeating stories that have already been told." (Camilla Nielsoon)

Directed by Camilla Nielsson, 2014, Denmark, 99 mins. In English and Shona with English subtitles.


  • Fri., Jan. 29 at 7 & 9 pm
  • Sat., Jan. 30 at 3, 5, 7 & 9 pm
  • Sun., Jan. 31 at 3, 5 & 7 pm
  • Mon.–Thurs., Feb. 1–4 at 7 & 9 pm
Buy tickets


$10 general admission

$5 for Facets Members

The Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. Call the Cinémathèque Hotline at 773.281.4114 for the latest schedule, showtimes and updates.

For all Cinémathèque inquiries, contact Charles Coleman at 773.281.9075 or

  • John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Artworks: National Endowment for the Arts
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
  • Comer Family Foundation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Alphawood Foundation
  • Polk Bros. Foundation