The Enlightenment, an era ignited three centuries ago, heralded an age of profound transformation through the pillars of science, reason, and democracy. This intellectual movement not only bestowed greater freedom and progress upon societies but also laid the foundations for contemporary thought. As we stand amidst the complexities of the 21st century, the question arises: does the Enlightenment endure in relevance today?
Embarking on a global journey, we traverse the realms of the past, present, and future, contemplating how the Enlightenment has sculpted our perspectives on equality, responsibility, freedom, and reason. In an era where the concept of freedom is neither universal nor assured, it becomes imperative to explore its essence in the context of the present day. Even in established western democracies, the very bedrock of freedom appears to be under threat, prompting a reflection on its contemporary meaning and the measures required for its defense.
The narrative unfolds through the lens of actress Pegah Ferydoni, whose travels take her to Lebanon, China, Paris, and Poland. In this quest, she unravels the life and legacy of Olympe de Gouges, a trailblazing French Enlightenment thinker who fervently championed equality between genders in the late 18th century.
The exploration extends to modern-day Lebanon, navigating the country's tumultuous economic crisis. Here, Ferydoni engages with Joumana Haddad, a fearless journalist and advocate for freedom of opinion, whose unyielding commitment to publishing feminist writings has subjected her to numerous death threats.
Diverging from the European trajectory shaped by Enlightenment ideals, China emerges as a distinct protagonist. Tongdong Bai, a philosophy professor in Shanghai, advocates for an alternative to the liberal-democratic system, drawing inspiration from Confucian principles.
The recent global pandemic rekindled debates surrounding individual freedom. Lockdowns and containment measures led to a spectrum of reactions, with some perceiving a threat to personal freedom while others found reassurance. Amidst these considerations, the inquiry into the meaning of freedom in the 21st century gains newfound significance, exploring its dynamics within the tapestry of society and the pursuit of the greater good.
Directed by: Michael Schmitt, Katharina Woll