Bringing Down a Dictator recounts an extraordinary period of recent history in Yugoslavia. The film focuses on a group of ordinary citizens who overcame their fear and voiced their dissent from Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
The group they formed was named Otpor! (the Serbian word for 'resistance'), and it was initially structured as a student protest organization. By the end of its mission, the group had swelled to well over 70,000 members all across Serbia, and they were eventually successful in ending the reign of their corrupted leader. They led with tireless and vocal opposition, an aversion to violent outburst, and a stubborn determination to earn their democracy at any cost.
The Otpor! movement may have been one of non-violence, but the tumultuous path that sparked them into action was paved by profound bloodshed and human right atrocities.
Narrated by acclaimed actor Martin Sheen, the film retraces the most heinous highlights of Milosevic's rule. Known as 'the Butcher of the Balkans', Milosevic engaged in ethnic cleansing, the erection of concentration camps, endless warmongering, and massive corruption. In his insatiable thirst for power, this Socialist Party leader displaced nearly a million refugees and allegedly ordered the massacre of many others.
This is no dry historical treatment with academic talking heads. The film is alive with the power and static of the moment. The documentary cameras embed the viewer alongside the group's leadership through every step of their eventful journey. We're given access to their daily struggles, learn their tactics for imposing change, and share in their victory when their uprising proves successful with the seizure of parliament. Milosevic would be arrested and extradited soon after.
First released in 2002, Bringing Down a Dictator has since inspired others to follow the example of non-violent protest and enact necessary political reforms in their own homelands. It's an instructive and inspirational story that's beautifully told, and an effective how-to manual for the disenfranchised who want to make their own change. Ultimately, the film proves that a determined population has the power to overcome any oppression when their voices are heard loudly and in unison.