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'Democracy Challenge' comes to YouTube

Aspiring filmmakers from around the world are invited to finish the sentence "Democracy is..." with three-minute videos.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy

To mark the United Nations' first-ever International Day of Democracy, the U.S. State Department launched a YouTube-based video contest on Monday.

Called the Democracy Video Challenge, the contest encourages the submission of three-minute videos that define the concept of democracy.

"The Democracy Video Challenge asks budding filmmakers, democracy advocates, and the general public to create video shorts that complete the phrase, 'Democracy is...'," the contest's official Web site explains. While they don't require entrants to be professional filmmakers, it's pretty clear that they're looking for something more high-end than sitting in front of your Webcam and waxing philosophical about Barack Obama.

Submissions will be accepted through January 31, and a jury will select semifinalists and then finalists. Seven winners, each one from a different global region, will be chosen by a public vote sometime in June. The winners will receive trips to New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles for screenings and meetings with film industry representatives and "democracy advocates."

There are very few rules: entrants must be 18 or older; the videos must be under three minutes long, "suitable for a general audience," comply with YouTube's terms of use, and either be in English or subtitled in English.

Partners in the contest include NBC Universal, the film schools at New York University and the University of Southern California, and the Directors Guild of America.