What Is Democracy?

Canada, 2018, 107 min, Colour

Coming at a moment of profound political and social crisis, What Is Democracy? reflects on a word we too often take for granted. Director Astra Taylor’s idiosyncratic, philosophical journey spans millennia and continents: from ancient Athens’ groundbreaking experiment in self-government to capitalism’s roots in medieval Italy; from modern-day Greece grappling with financial collapse and a mounting refugee crisis to the United States reckoning with its racist past and the growing gap between rich and poor. Featuring a diverse cast, this urgent film connects the past and the present, the emotional and the intellectual, the personal and the political, in order to provoke and inspire. If we want to live in democracy, we must first ask what the word even means.



Astra Taylor


Lea Marin


Maya Bankovic


Robert Kennedy


David McCallum


Astra Taylor is a filmmaker, writer, and political organizer. She is the director of the philosophical documentaries What Is Democracy?, Examined Life and Zizek!; the author of the American Book Award winner The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age; and a co-founder of the Debt Collective. She has written for The New York Times, The London Review of Books, The Guardian, The Walrus, The Baffler, n+1, and many other outlets. She is a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow and a former touring member of the band Neutral Milk Hotel. Her new book, Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone, will be out from Metropolitan Books in early 2019.


Canada, 2018, TIFF Toronto,

TIFF Toronto, Canada 2018 -

United Kingdom, 2018, Sheffield Doc/Fest,

Sheffield Doc/Fest, United Kingdom 2018 -

United States, 2018, CIFF Camden,

CIFF Camden, United States 2018 -


National Film Board of Canada
P.O. Box 6100
Station Centre-ville
Montreal, Quebec, H3C 3H5