Jody Shapiro’s ultra-sharp documentary How to Start Your Own Country examines micro-nations – tiny states seldom recognized by better-known, more conventionally established countries. Traversing the globe, Shapiro introduces us to several states you’ve almost certainly never heard of.
Somewhere in Nevada is the Republic of Molossia. Its land mass is 1.3 acres, it’s population six (basically the president and his pets). There’s also the Principality of Seborga, established in 820 AD as a reward for returning Crusaders; North Dumpling Island, founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen; the Seasteading Institute, an experiment in offshore living; the New Free State of Caroline, a territory-less entity created by artist Gregory Green; Sealand, an abandoned World War II gun tower in the North Sea; and the Hutt River Principality, the second largest country on the continent of Australia.
Populated by genuine eccentrics, How to Start Your Own Country is idiosyncratic and hilarious. The founder of Molossia (where everything from Texas is banned) was inspired to create the country as a high school student after he and a friend saw the Peter Sellars chestnut The Mouse That Roared. Hutt River’s leader, a man called Leonard, seceded from Australia over production restrictions. He declared himself prince and his appreciative wife, Shirley, princess. “It’s a much easier job than a farmer’s wife,” Shirley enthuses.
But the film is also very serious, laying out the oddities and ironies of statehood through interviews with numerous experts. Is Lichtenstein less of a state because the Czech Republic doesn’t recognize it? How many countries need to recognize you before you’re taken seriously?
Shapiro is steadfastly respectful of his subjects, tuning into their burning desire for independence. He has a way of making eccentricity seem fascinating but totally rational. Someone who isn’t represented by a recognized government has no real constitutional or international rights, and Shapiro plumbs these more practical considerations with intelligence. Elegantly made and well researched, How to Start Your Own Country is an entertaining, insightful and memorable work. —TIFF
Liked it very much. Seborga, Sealand and Hutt River Province were really interesting cases that I have not heard of before. A note about a detail: Czech Republic recognized Liechtenstein later in 2009-the year when the movie was -probably- shot. The ending of the hostility between these two states might actually be the reason why the EU has been awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize :)
Entertaining documentary looking at those individuals who have declared themselves or their holdings to be part of their 'own' country. Republics, city states, principalities etc. but within various so called legitimate countries. Some wackos and eccentrics yes but some who are clhallenging exactly what makes a country. The idea of the Seasteading Institute quite interesting with proper funding.
Being an ambassador of the Conch Republic, I can only begin to describe my dedication and devotion to this cause. That said, if micronation philosophy was always this long-winded my guess is we would… read review