EXCLUSIVE: Bruce Willis has signed to produce and narrate The People Demand, a feature documentary detailing the aspirations of protesters around the world in their pursuit of democracy, free speech and human rights. Willis will spearhead the film with Station 18 CEO and Lord of War exec producer Michael Mendelsohn and Michelle McElroy, exec director and Willis’s partner in the Bruce Willis Foundation. The story centers around the current crisis in Cairo, where pro-democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize Nominee (for founding the April 6 Movement) Ahmed Maher was sentenced to three years of hard labor for violating harsh anti-protesting laws meant to quell dissent in a country where peaceful protests led to the ouster of two governments in three years. Maher and his co-defendants get their appeal tomorrow.
The documentary looks at the political motivations for suppressing free speech and democratic movements, while taking an unflinching look at leadership in international activist movements and the practice of street politics. Maher’s journey exemplifies this trajectory: as one of the leaders of Egypt’s January 25, 2011 Revolution he harnessed the power and imagination of Egyptians for a better future. But since that time he has also been at the epicenter of the messy work of democratic change as Egypt went from the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak to the repression of SCAF to the polarizing figure of President Morsi. Hopes for democracy have been dashed, and heroes of reform are being punished by repressive laws meant to make future protests impossible.
The docu will compare the events in Egypt to politics in Spain and Russia, to explore how people can better work together to achieve their common goals. Noam Chomsky is one who’ll be interviewed, as well as journalists and activists to explore the impact of the internet on change. They are eyeing a fall 2014 release, but if it takes a little longer, who knows? The documentary might be on the menu here at Sundance next year.