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How To Start a Revolution

The Blueprint for Change that is Rocking the World

How To Start a Revolution

Duration: 82 min
(Abr. duration: 52 min)
ISBN: 1-932869-59-X
Date Produced: 2011
Subtitles: English

Filmmaker Info
Film Festivals
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Press Reviews
Praise for the Film

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How To Start a Revolution
The Blueprint for Change that is Rocking the World

Gene Sharp hardly seems like one of the world's most dangerous men. White-haired and soft-spoken, the 83-year-old professor mostly keeps to himself, spending much of his time in his small Boston home reading, writing, and tending to his orchid garden. But to the world's most brutal dictators, Professor Sharp's ideas have proven catastrophic. In this fascinating new film, director Ruaridh Arrow details how an obscure list of nonviolent actions authored by Sharp in 1973 has served as a blueprint for anti-authoritarian revolts everywhere from Eastern Europe and the Balkans to the Arab Spring. As much about the substance of Sharp's "198 Methods of Nonviolent Action" as it is about the courageous democratic rebels who have made these methods their own, How to Start a Revolution bears witness to the power of nonviolent struggle, and show how one person of conscience can quietly influence the lives of millions of people. Features commentary from Sharp's close ally Retired U.S. Army Colonel Robert Helvey, Sharp himself, and many of the revolutionary leaders his work has inspired.

DVD contains two versions: a full length version (82 minutes) and an abridged version (52 minutes).

Filmmaker Info

Director: Ruaridh Arrow
Director of Photography: Philip Bloom
Producer: Richard Shaw
Editor: Mike Crozier & Lorrin Braddick
Assistant Producer: Cailean Watt
Social Media Coordinator: Ke Cai
Executive Producer: James Otis
Executive Producer: Jeremy Mills
Associate Producers: Robb Allen, Uros Anderlic, Giulia Clark, Cynthia Ryan, Kylie Gutry, Tara Harder

Film Festivals

2013 ScreenPeace Film Festival
2012 Ninth Human Rights Film Festival - New York/Paris/Barcelona
2012 Oslo Human Rights Human Wrongs Documentary Film Festival
2011 United Nations Association Film Festival
2011 Fort Lauderdale Film Festival
2011 Boston Film Festival
2011 Raindance Film Festival
2011 One World Film Festival - Ottawa
2011 San Francisco Documentary Film Festival
2011 Copenhagen CPH:DOX
2011 Lucerne Inspirational Film Festival


Best Feature Film | Human Rights Film Festival
New Talent Award for Feature Length Documentary | Scottish BAFTA
Best Documentary | Fort Lauderdale Film Festival
Best Documentary | Boston Film Festival
Best Documentary | Raindance Film Festival, London
Special Jury Prize | One World Film Festival - Ottawa

The Albert Einstein Institution
The 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action
"The Quiet American" | New York Times
"To Start a Revolution, Read Gene Sharp's Primer on Peaceful Protest" | The Globe and Mail
"Gene Sharp: The US Scholar Who Inspires Middle East Uprisings" | BBC
"The 83-year-old Academic Who Inspired the Egyptians" | The Week

Press Reviews

The Huffington Post
Libertas Film Magazine
The Doc Hierarchy

Praise for the Film

"A world conquering British documentary"
- The Daily Telegraph

- The Globe and Mail

"Smart & timely"
- Time Out

"A vital conversation starter and educational tool for a world awash with violence."
- The Huffington Post

"A powerful, moving, and beautifully produced film."
- Robert L. Holmes | Professor Emeritus | University of Rochester

"While Gandhi gave us the tactics and philosophy of nonviolence, Gene Sharp offers a systematic strategy of civil resistance. Liberation movements across the world are proving that this strategy is effective, even against tyrants. Thanks to Sharp, we can now realistically envision a world without war."
- Sharon Erickson Nepstad | Professor of Sociology | University of New Mexico | Author of Nonviolent Revolutions

"Will likely challenge and broaden the way people think about the continuing struggle for freedom and constitutional democracy around the world. Indeed, it is rare that a film offers so much to engage with. Unusually provocative and intellectually rigorous, How to Start a Revolution is recommended quite keenly."
- Libertas Film Magazine

"This excellent film confirms Gene Sharp as the 'Einstein of nonviolent resistance,' the singular pioneer in a relatively new field of inquiry and practice, whose influence on social revolutions rightfully stretches across time and place, religion and race. How to Start a Revolution should be required viewing not only in courses on nonviolence and peace studies, but really in any course that examines political change and prescribes remedies for social justice."
- Michael Nojeim | Associate Professor of Political Science | Prairie View A&M University | Author of Gandhi and King: The Power of Nonviolent Resistance

"For more than half a century, Gene Sharp has studied the power of nonviolent action against dictatorship, occupation, and social and economic injustice and has analyzed why it has become a force more powerful than war. This remarkable documentary tells the story behind the man, working out of a simple home office in a working class neighborhood of Boston, whose writings have inspired popular struggles for freedom and justice worldwide. Anyone who doubts the power of ideas should see this film."
- Stephen Zunes | Professor of Politics | University of San Francisco

"Rather than being the refuge of the powerless or a form of passivity, this compelling video makes it clear that well-strategized and persistent nonviolent action is a force that can shake the world. How to Start a Revolution highlights the enormous contribution that Gene Sharp has made to showing us, in pragmatic terms, how this force can best be used to undermine dictators and empower ordinary citizens. It is a source of continuing amazement to me that Sharp was not long ago awarded the Nobel Peace Prize."
- Lloyd Jeff Dumas | Professor of Political Economy | University of Texas at Dallas

"This is a powerful film about a powerful idea -- indeed, perhaps the only idea that is more powerful than violence. It is emotionally engrossing, intellectually compelling, and as fresh and up-to-date as tomorrow's headlines. It shows how Gene Sharp's ideas of nonviolent resistance have been -- and will doubtless continue to be -- central to the most important political changes taking place on our planet."
- David P. Barash | Professor of Psychology | University of Washington

"How to Start a Revolution is a brilliant and timely reminder that not only can nonviolent action be dramatically effective, but that the change it produces is likely to be more enduring than that wrought through violence and bloodshed. And in celebrating Gene Sharp it gives prominence to an unlikely hero of the peace movement, whose work and influence will in time come to be seen as seminal in helping to shape a new path for humankind."
- Edward Canfor-Dumas | Head of Secretariat | UK Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues

"How to Start a Revolution shows how Gene Sharp's simple tools of nonviolent action have helped people around the world stand up to powerful forces and aggression. The Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation was pleased to show How to Start a Revolution, and to honor the work of Gene Sharp and filmmaker Ruaridh Arrow. When someone asks you if it's possible to stand up to a dictator or overthrow an autocratic regime, tell them to go watch this remarkable film."
- Susan Hackley | Managing Director of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School

"At last, a film focused solely on Gene Sharp's formidable intellectual influence on historical and contemporary conflicts. A brilliant film celebrating a brilliant man. Bravo!"
- Erica Chenoweth | University of Denver | Co-author of Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict

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