Case Studies/Following Alexis West

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The documentary film Following Alexis West chronicles the effects that New Zealand’s switch to a proportional representation voting system has had on its culture and politics since 1996. Mirroring the journey taken by French political theorist and lawyer Alexis de Tocqueville to America to examine the workings of democracy in the early nineteenth century, which culminated in the writing of De la démocratie en Amérique (Democracy in America), the film’s producer Brian Boyko travels to New Zealand from the United States to document the country’s political and cultural achievements. The documentary examines the way in which New Zealand’s reconfigured voting structure may serve to prevent ‘gerrymandering, negative campaigning, civic disengagement, and undue influence of powerful lobbies, as well as taking a look at problems with democracy in New Zealand that [are believed not to exist] in America, like restrictions on satire and film classification.’ ( main/?page_id=9) Interviews are conducted with prominent New Zealand politicians, political scientists, media figures, bloggers, and ‘just plain old folks in the pub,’ with a view to gaining insights into the success of the proportional representation voting structure, and ultimately what the relationship is between NZ’s parliamentary system and its people.