Michael Fox is a freelance journalist, translator, reporter and documentary filmmaker based in South America. He is a former staff reporter for Venezuelanlaysis, a radio correspondent for Free Speech Radio News, and his articles have been published with Yes Magazine, Earth Island Journal, NACLA, The Nation online, and dozens of other magazines and websites. His work can be found here, or at his blog, www.blendingthelines.com
Sílvia Leindecker is a Brazilian philosopher, documentary filmmaker, and independent photographer who has shot for the Spanish news agency EFE, Germany's Politik magazine, and numerous independent projects, advertisement and film productions. She has been studying acupuncture for several years. She is a certified doula and a natural birth activist. Her blog can be found at www.momae.org
In 2007, Michael and Sílvia helped to co-found the Internet Radio Venezuela en Vivo, which broadcasted live coverage from Venezuela's Constitutional Reform Referendum. Based now in Brazil, Michael and Sílvia have for many years been covering Latin American politics and social movements, as well as the growth in the region's participatory democracy—cooperatives, Brazil's participatory budgeting, and Venezuela's communal councils.
They are the co-directors of the documentary, Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas (PM Press, 2008). Michael is the co-author of Venezuela Speaks!: Voices from the Grassroots (PM Press, 2010), for which Sílvia was the lead photographer.
For their most recent documentary, Crossing the American Crises: From Collapse to Action (PM Press, 2011), Michael and Sílvia traveled across the United States in 2008 and 2010 to capture the pulse of the nation in crisis, and to hear the response from Americans across the country.
"Michael Fox's reporting on Latin American social movements is among the most thorough and incisive you'll find. Venezuela Speaks! will be an important addition to our understanding of the people behind the Bolivarian Revolution." — Jason Mark, editor, Earth Island Journal
Crossing the American Crises: From Collapse To Action (DVD)
Producer: Michael Fox
Director/Producer: Sílvia Leindecker
Publisher: PM Press/Estreito Meios Productions
Published March 2011
Format: Video (DVD - NTSC)
Subtitles: English, Spanish and Portuguese
Size: 7.5 by 5.5
Length: 82 Minutes
Subjects: Current Events, Politics, Documentary
On September 15, 2008, the United States fell into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The same day, we set out on a trip around the country to ask the American people what they had to say about it. In 2010, we went back to see how things had changed. The financial forecasters say the recession is over, but the reality is otherwise.
Their stories reveal desperation, indignation, hope, dreams and a disastrous economic breakdown; chaos generated by a system of inequality. But the financial meltdown is just one of several human rights crises now shaking the United States—in housing, education, health care, etc. The solutions to “Crossing the American Crises” are in the hands of the people.
Featuring the Vermont Worker’s Center, LA's Bus Rider's Union, Santa Fe's local business Alliance, Oakland's Green Jobs Now, Baltimore’s United Workers, New York’s Poverty Initiative, the U.S. Social Forum, and American workers, truck drivers, farmers, homeless, ex-felons, minorities, natural disaster survivors, indigenous, immigrants, and residents from coast to coast—covering nearly 40 states across the nation.
Silvia Leindecker and Michael Fox have done it again! Crossing the American Crises: From Collapse to Action tells the stories of ordinary people confronting the ongoing economic crisis in the United States. The stories are both heartbreaking and inspiring: They bring to life the devastating consequences of the 2008 Wall Street catastrophe for poor people facing unemployment, homelessness, and discrimination. At the same time, they show the resilience and resourcefulness with which the downtrodden are facing the future, and the creativity and solidarity of grassroots groups fighting for housing, education, and healthcare as basic human rights. The film is magisterial in the diversity of perspectives it represents, giving voice to women and men of different ages, ethnicities, and geographic regions. Leindecker and Fox have their own story to tell—a road-trip narrative of discovery in America’s heartland—and they tell it with grace and compelling provocations.
—Benjamin Junge, Dept. of Anthropology / SUNY-New Paltz.
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Venezuela Speaks!: Voices From The Grassroots
Edited by Carlos Martinez, Michael Fox and JoJo Farrell
Published: November 2009
Page Count: 320
Dimensions: 6 by 9
Subjects: Current Events, Political Science
For the last decade, Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution” has captured international attention. Poverty, inequality and unemployment have all dropped, while health, education and living standards have seen a commensurate rise. The international mainstream media has focused predominantly on Venezuela’s controversial leader, President Hugo Chavez, who has routinely been in the headlines. But without the active participation of large and diverse sectors of society, Chavez’s moment on the scene would have ended long ago.
Venezuela Speaks!: Voices from the Grassroots is a collection of interviews with activists and participants from across Venezuela’s social movements. From community media to land reform; cooperatives to communal councils, from the labor movement to the Afro-Venezuelan network, Venezuela Speaks! sheds light on the complex realities within the Bolivarian Revolution. These interviews offer a compelling oral history of Venezuela's democratic revolution, from the bottom up.
“Venezuela Speaks! is a very important book in the growing literature of books on Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution. Almost all of the books written on this topic so far take a "top-down" perspective on what is happening in contemporary Venezuela. This book, though, provides an unfiltered participant's perspective on Venezuela's incredibly diverse social movements and, in the process, dispels the notion that President Chavez is the only one who counts when trying to understand Venezuela.”
--Gregory Wilpert, author of Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chávez Government and editor of Venezuelanalysis.com
Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas
Directed by Michael Fox and Silvia Leindecker
Released September 2008
DVD Format: NTSC
Language: English, Spanish and Portuguese with English and Spanish subtitles
Package: 7.5 by 5.5
Length: 104 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Subjects: Documentary, Current Events, Politics
What is democracy? Freedom, equality, participation? Everyone has his or her own definition. Across the world, 120 countries now have at least the minimum trappings of democracy—the freedom to vote for all citizens. But for many, this is just the beginning not the end. Following decades of US-backed dictatorships, civil wars and devastating structural adjustment policies in the South, and corporate control, electoral corruption, and fraud in the North, representative politics in the Americas is in crisis. Citizens are now choosing to redefine democracy under their own terms: local, direct, and participatory.
Featuring interviews with: Eduardo Galeano, Amy Goodman, Emir Sader, Martha Harnecker, Ward Churchill, and Leonardo Avritzer as well as cooperative and community members, elected representatives, academics, and activists from Brazil, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, United States, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, and more.
Beyond Elections is a journey that takes us across the Americas to attempt to answer one of the most important questions of our time: What is Democracy?
Extras include video, audio, and resource materials on participatory democracy.
A decade ago, South America experienced a continental economic collapse. The response from the street included protests, occupations, ballot-box revolutions, and finally, solutions. Now experiencing our own economic catastrophe, those same South American solutions can serve us well here in the North. The film, Beyond Elections, presents a most complete, detailed, and informative documentary record of the economic democratization taking place throughout Latin America. Show it, watch it, and learn from it.
—Ben Manski, Liberty Tree
Beyond Elections is a thoughtful exploration of how decentralized power structures can help communities thrive, as average citizens take responsibility for their own destinies.
—Jason Stone, Resource Center of the Americas
—Ben Dangl, Editor, Upside Down World & Toward Freedom
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- Crossing the American Crises: Toward Freedom
- Crossing the American Crises: GRIID
- A Crisis to be Reckoned With: Crossing the American Crises in The Liberal Ohioan
- German Venezuela Speaks Review: Quetzal:
- Bolivarian Blasts: Peace News
- Revolution Within the Revolution in Venezuela: Monthly Review
- Voices of Participatory Democracy in Venezuela:Upside Down World
- South of the Ballot Box: nacla.org
- Beyond Elections: reelgrok.com
- Yes! Magazine
- Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the America: Ernesto Aguilar
by Benjamin Dangl
July 7th, 2011
Such insight from people across the country makes Crossing the American Crises an impressive film that captures the spirit of America today. Its stories of human hardship, solidarity and hope paint a portrait of America that is both heart-breaking and inspiring. This documentary is a powerful reminder of the countless social movements working each day to transform this country, from the fields of Oklahoma to the streets of New Orleans.
by Jeff Smith
Crossing the American Crisis: From Collapse to Action (DVD) – This film is different than other documentaries that investigate the 2008 economic crash in that it seeks to get the perspective of working people all across the country. The filmmakers traveled all over the US interviewing the real impact of the economic crash and how it has impacted working class people. The stories and images are powerful. Crossing the American Crisis is an excellent companion to Inside Job.
By Greg Rosenthal
The Liberal Ohioan
As evidenced in the social movements of the 1930’s and a new documentary following the economic crisis, Crossing the American Crises: From Collapse to Action, crisis may also serve as an opportunity for the acceleration of resistance, social movements and alternative forms of economic relationships based around human rights values. Of equal importance is the consideration that people have been both in crisis and organizing for social change well before the the Great Financial Crisis, which filmmakers Silvia Leindecker and Michael Fox make sure to not overlook through the myriad of interviews they conduct with grassroots organizations across the U.S.
By Lainie Cassell
Monthly Review Zine
January 26, 2010
Venezuela Speaks! Voices from the Grassroots is the first book in the English language that has captured the challenges of bottom-up movements under President Chavez. In the book, co-authors Carlos Martinez, Michael Fox, and Jojo Farrell offer a much-needed history of revolutionary Venezuela and an analysis of current events, interwoven among interviews with some of Venezuela's most important leaders among the people.
A Review of Venezuela Speaks! Voices from the Grassroots
By Hans Bennett
Upside Down World
There are many different ways that the corporate media continues to misrepresent the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Many critics of this biased media coverage have directly challenged the demonization of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but very few critics, if any, have exposed the media’s virtual erasure of the vibrant and growing participatory democracy in Venezuela. Alas, the new book entitled Venezuela Speaks! Voices from the Grassroots(PM Press, 2010) offers a powerful correction to this misrepresentation by spotlighting a wide range of people and movements that are actively governing themselves with official governmental structures created since the 1998 election of President Chavez, and the growing non-governmental social movements that have existed for several decades.Venezuela Speaks embodies this non-hierarchical philosophy by presenting the voices of the people themselves in interviews from practically every sector of society, including community organizers, educators, journalists, cultural workers, farmers, women, students, and Indigenous & Afro-Venezuelans.
By Benjamin Dangl
Michael Fox is a Brazil-based independent journalist and co-producer of the new documentary Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas (PM Press). He is also the co-author of an upcoming book called Venezuela Speaks: Voices From the Grassroots, also available through PM Press and set to be released this fall. Throughout his research for this film and book, and as a radio and print reporter who has covered political and social issues across Latin America, Fox has come to know to hopes and struggles of the region’s social movements, and what US activists might learn from the experiences of these movements.
A new documentary looks at Latin America's most controversial democracies
The new documentary Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas (buy from PM Press) proves that democracy can and should be more than casting a ballot every four years. This empowering film gives hopeful and concrete examples from around the Americas of people taking back the reigns of power and governing their own communities. Beyond Elections is a road map for social change, drawing from communal councils in Venezuela and social movements in Bolivia to participatory budgeting in Brazil and worker cooperatives in Argentina. The film gracefully succeeds in demonstrating that these grassroots examples of people’s power can be applied anywhere. Particularly as activists in the US face the challenges of an Obama administration and an economic crisis, this timely documentary shows that the revolution can start today right in your own living room or neighborhood.
In this interview, Michael Fox, Co-Producer of Beyond Elections, talks about how the film was created, what its aims were and what the films impact has had among viewers in the US...
South of the Ballot Box
By Todd Miller
Beyond Elections plunges into the rowdy realm of popular democracy, where opinions clash and people take the idea of consensus so seriously that they are willing to engage in long, painstaking meetings. The filmmakers omit no opinions from the debates they cover, taking the time to show participants explaining the projects under discussion, providing very little narration. The film reflects the ambitious vision of the democracy it depicts, making the film rather lengthy, almost two hours. Although the film sprawls a bit, this is also the film’s beauty—the close attention it pays to the wide-spanning locales where new concepts of democracy are arising and being worked out.
Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas
By Mathius Mack Gertz
What is democracy? Freedom, equality, participation? Everyone has his or her own definition. Across the world, 120 countries now have at least the minimum trappings of democracy-the freedom to vote for all citizens. But for many this is just the beginning, not the end. Following decades of US backed dictatorships, civil wars and devastating structural adjustment policies in the South, and corporate control, electoral corruption, and fraud in the North, representative politics in the Americas is in a crisis. Citizens are now choosing to redefine democracy under their own terms: local, direct and participatory...
To the activists interviewed in Beyond Elections, democracy is more than mere voting: It is having a say in daily decisions that affect our lives. Members of cooperatives describe the power of participating in workplace decisions. Delegates to a constitutional assembly discuss reforming government to include historically disenfranchised poor people. And citizens tell how their communities have benefited from participatory budgeting.
Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas
By Ernesto Aguilar
Some of the more intriguing bits of Beyond Elections come from how the voices of those from communities and populations affected by political corruption and disenfranchisement are interspersed with those who give the statistical or other views oftentimes presented when people talk about challenging oppression. While intellectual classes always get camera time, and impacted neighborhoods have become the new go-to documentary cameos, Beyond Elections manages to make that dynamic engrossing to watch.