Dear Mr. Clooney,
Some stories more compelling than others. We find ourselves following certain news events, helping one cause, but not another. Is it only that these stories seem to touch our lives directly? How do you choose whom to help?
Sometimes it feels like the story chooses us. When the documentary film A Whisper to a Roar was released, I met and interviewed the director/producer Ben Moses. The film focuses on five countries struggling for democracy -- Egypt, Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. While the film and the stories about democracy are compelling, I found myself very intrigued, wondering what my new friend Ben was going to do next because he has a knack for being in the right, challenging place at the right, challenging time. I'd like to introduce you to Ben because he's found his next project and we need some help.
You recognized the Ukrainian desire for democracy in the video you posted back in December. Thank you for lending your voice to that struggle. Andriy Shevchenko is one of the outspoken journalists highlighted in Whisper. Andriy has gone on to become an active Member of Parliament. He remains clear in his commitment to bring a working democracy to Ukraine. Ben's new project, Desperately Seeking Democracy, will bring Andriy to America to travel and talk to politicians, ordinary citizens and maybe even movie stars committed to social justice to learn from our wisdom and experience what it takes to make a true democracy work.
Ben's original plan to bring Andriy here to learn about democracy has taken on a new urgency as the situation in Ukraine worsens. The film will bring attention to the critical struggle for democracy in this part of the world.
After a recent trip to Poland for a screening of Whisper, Ben planned to head back to Ukraine to visit friends. The trip ended up coinciding with the beginnings of the current protests in Kiev. Here's part of a dispatch he sent back home from early December:
So I arrive Sunday morning to between 800,000 and 1.6 million people in the streets of Kiev calling for [Yanukovych's] ouster (According to my news channel friends, this is the internal government estimate! Of course, the government is telling the press "maybe 20,000").
Andriy is one of the central characters in it, so as soon as I check into the hotel it's, "Come on, Ben, let's go!" And now, my little camera rolling, I'm following him and his friends around in Independence Square and behind the scenes as they try to take down a government.
While the Orange Revolution in Ukraine led to a democratic government, the practice of democracy isn't coming easy. As of this writing, at least seven protestors are dead, people in and around Maidan have been targeted via text, students' names have been collected and they may face expulsion from university, tension and violence between the police and protestors is increasing daily. Mr. Yanukovych seems unlikely to step down or agree to snap elections as the protestors are calling for. The opposition is made up of at least three different factions, some of who are deemed extremist. The threat is that the country will explode into violent revolution or civil war. What does democracy look like in the face of this kind of turmoil? And how does one achieve it?
Ben has taken a good, long look at politics in many countries, but never lost sight of what's going on here in the US. Our own story is currently marked by strife and polarization. One benefit of bringing Andriy to this country is that Americans will have the chance to see our compelling story through the eyes of another.
Nicholas Kristof wrote, "A revolution isn't an event, but a process." How will this process in Ukraine look in ten years' time? Ben's newest project will give us a record of both Ukraine and US democracy to study. Will you help? Ben needs a narrator for the voiceover. Perhaps someone to meet with Andriy when he arrives in America to start his search for answers. You would, of course, excel in either of these roles. With your involvement, the film will not only bring needed attention to Ukraine, but to the process of democracy in America.
There are so many stories, so many conflicts that need our attention. I understand that you can't fix every country's chaos by lending your famous voice, but if you've read this far, I'll ask for a little more of your time. What follows comes from one of Ben's friends in Ukraine. We can share this bit of news with you, but can't publish a name. It's too dangerous. Please know that this friend has been quite involved in the peaceful end of the protests.
This night, I stayed on the Maidan. It was snowing and freezing. They didn't let us in a building, neither as civil activists nor press -- despite the fact that they should according to the law.
One student near me was arrested. He is a peaceful 22 years old poet, student. They arrested him near Maidan and without any evidence. He is accused of mass civil disorder. He is in prospect of 12 years imprisonment. Now he is held in detention for 2 months.
Ben, what`s going on with this country?
Two weeks ago I bought 150 meters of blue-yellow stripe and gave it to people on the streets. I wanted them feel united, show their support to protests. Today I can be imprisoned and beaten for that. Each of us can.
Two people were killed this morning. The policemen I talked to at night are sure they are fighting for laws and order.
My ancestors died for Ukraine and today it can be divided because of international political games.
I have no tears, I have to do everything I can and it's not enough.
While I was writing one more man was killed.
I know this is a rather unconventional way to reach out to you. Thank you for all you've done in the past and I hope there's something in this project that touches you. Just writing to you this way brings more attention the struggle of the people in Ukraine.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org to put you in touch with Ben directly. We'll send a copy of A Whisper to a Roar to your production office.