Further Information and FAQ
We want to produce stories about people who, in general:
- Acted in public in opposition to a dominant, hostile power
- Acted to help overcome a clear injustice
- Had no recourse to any accepted channels of opposition
- Displayed extraordinary courage, or made significant self-sacrifices
- Acted peacefully wherever possible, using violence only as a last recourse, never having targeted civilians
These criteria are not fixed. Typically, we would wait until towards the end of a person’s life before making a story about them.
I LIKE THE IDEA, BUT WHERE ARE THE STORIES?
We are in the early stages of producing stories, working on scripts etc. Animation is time-intensive, and once in production, the films will take around 12 months to make.
WHAT ANIMATIONS HAVE YOU MADE ALREADY?
We have produced 'The Unknown Dissident', and we are working on others.
PROJECT MOTIVATION AND ABOUT DISSENT
WHY FOCUS ON DISSIDENTS?
We feel the self-sacrifice of dissidents deserves to be recognised. But we also feel that in telling the stories, we are doing four other things:
One – kindling civic virtue. Philosophers from Aristotle to Amartya Sen, Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment, have called for the cultivation of civic virtue. We believe there could be no better way to achieve that end than with these stories.
Two – highlighting the importance of dissent. Dissent has a price - there is danger, the risk of persecution, split societies, maybe even death. But when societies are strongly repressive, there is no other way for a society to start to correct an injustice than through dissent. For instance, dissent catalysed the end of apartheid in South Africa; moreover, it gave oppressed South Africans during apartheid hope. Dissent began the process of making the United States independent. Through dissent, Copernicus and Galileo put the sun at the centre of our universe. Yet we don’t talk very much about dissent as a valuable phenomenon. It deserves more recognition.
Three – showcasing a great side of humanity.
Four - giving hope to dissidents themselves. Anatoly Marchenko said: “When I was locked up in Vladimir Prison I was often seized by despair. Hunger, illness, and above all helplessness, the sheer impossibility of struggling against evil, provoked me to the point where I was ready to hurl myself upon my jailers with the sole purpose of being killed. ... One thing alone prevented me, one thing alone gave me the strength to live through that nightmare; the hope that I would eventually come out and tell the whole world what I had seen and experienced.”
AREN’T THE STORIES OF THESE DISSIDENTS WELL-KNOWN ALREADY?
In short, no. Many exemplary dissidents are well known locally or nationally. Few, though, are well known internationally, and what we want to do is share the treasures that are their stories across the world. A secondary reason is to preserve their stories within the areas where they are currently well known.
ARE YOU ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO BECOME DISSIDENTS?
No. In terms of a social effect, we want to encourage civic virtue in our audience – for people to have a greater feeling of responsibility for the good of their community.
IS THERE A HISTORY OF DISSENT?
We don’t know of a focused history of dissent as a phenomenon, though there are books that look at dissent in different countries at different times. Some lineage of dissent can be immediately discerned: Leo Tolstoy, something of a dissident himself, was an influence on Mohandas Gandhi, who in turn inspired Martin Luther King. Both of these figures inspired Nelson Mandela, and these ‘big three’ in turn inspired people such Aung San Suu Kyi. Amongst Aung San Suu Kyi’s other influences was the Hungarian dissident Edith Bone, as well as Václav Havel and Lech Walesa.
We would love to help open up the study of dissent as a field, and to contribute to a history of dissent through the stories and information we collect as part of our project.
CHOOSING WHICH STORIES
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH DISSIDENTS TO PORTRAY?
We keep a ‘long-list’ of possible dissidents for our story collection, constructed from our own research and from suggestions we receive. From these, we select stories which seem particularly powerful and for which there is sufficient information to produce stories. We also try to maintain a balance between regions and how well known the dissidents currently are. Finally, we have an advisory panel which approves which dissidents to portray.
In the future, we would like to include audience voting on which stories to make.
WHAT DO YOU DEFINE AS A DISSIDENT? AND WHERE DO ACTIVISTS FIT IN?
For the purposes of our project we distinguish between activists and dissidents. Activists operate in societies where there are accepted and functioning means of introducing change in a society; dissidents do not. Our general criteria for what makes a dissident for our project are here.
The boundary between activist and dissident is of course grey, and sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between the two. Every state claims a monopoly over violence and exercises it at times.
We try to use the term ‘dissident’ for someone who devotes the majority of their life to a particular cause, and ‘dissenter’ for someone whose involvement is more temporary.
CAN I SUGGEST A DISSIDENT?
Yes, please do. Have a read over our general criteria, and then send us an email.
CAN I HELP FUND THE MAKING OF A STORY?
ON WHAT BASIS DO YOU ACCEPT FUNDING?
We only accept funding on the basis of being able to maintain our editorial independence.
MAKING AND DISSEMINATING THE STORIES
WHY DO YOU MAKE NARRATIVE DRAMAS INSTEAD OF DOCUMENTARIES?
We make narrative dramas as we feel they move more people emotionally and are able to cast a spell over the viewer that is more rarely achieved in documentaries. That’s not to say documentaries can’t move people greatly – it’s just that we feel that more people like to follow a narrative story.
- Allows a huge range of artistic expression, particularly for abstract concepts and states of mind
- Can be beautiful in many different ways
- Allows us to recreate historical events more easily than live action.
We hope the use of animation, and illustration for texts, will make our project double as an art gallery as well as a trove of stories.
DO YOU AIM TO BROADCAST STORIES VIA TRADITIONAL MEDIA (TV, CINEMA, RADIO)?
Yes. Our chief means of dissemination is the web, but we are keen to find broadcast partners for our content. This probably won’t be possible until we have a certain number of stories which we can form into a package.
WHY DON’T YOU GET PEOPLE FROM THE DISSIDENT’S COUNTRY TO MAKE THE ANIMATION?
As far as possible that’s what we’d like to do - to have creative teams from the country/locality of the dissident telling that story. We hope that’s what our project grows into being – people sharing their local stories globally. As we grow, though, we will often have artists telling stories from other lands.
I AM A WRITER/ANIMATOR/ILLUSTRATOR/COMPOSER/SOUND-DESIGNER/VOICE-OVER ARTIST/TRANSLATOR. CAN I HELP OUT?
If you would like to work on a story for our collection, please contact us. Let us know what your skills are. It would be a good idea to include some sample work.
WHAT ARE THE TERMS OF AGREEMENT IN WORKING WITH YOU?
We are developing a general terms of agreement covering licensing, copyright and royalties which is fair to creators and which allows our organisation, which will be not-for-profit, to support itself. The terms will be designed to promote maximal exposure of the content.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY ‘KNOWINGLY SUBSTANTIVELY INACCURATE’?
We want to tell true, compelling stories. Sometimes, fluid storytelling means that some details of a life might be omitted, or combined. For instance, two spells in prison with a short break in between might be elided into one. From a strict point of view, that could be seen as a factual inaccuracy – but, depending on the case, it may not change the essence of the events.
In some cases, the only primary sources about events are autobiographies or the accounts of a single person. It can sometimes be impossible to verify the accuracy of such accounts. We will exercise our judgement in such cases, usually giving the benefit of the doubt – i.e. we will take it that the events took place as described.
In other cases there may be no sources of information at all. We will usually avoid trying to depict such ‘gaps’ in a dissident’s life. However, where the ‘gap’ is judged to be vital to the story, we will make our best guess as to what happened.
If information comes to light showing an important detail is inaccurate after a story has been made, we will take down the story from our website. We may modify the story and re-release it.