An ode to the universal values of freedom, of standing up against the oppressor and solidarity. A film that should be displayed everywhere for public inspiration.
Tahrir 2011 is a feature length documentary produced by three young Egyptian filmmakers about the Egyptian revolution at Tahrir square that took place from the 25th January 2011 until the fall of the regime on the 12th of February 2011). It is divided in three distinct parts: the good (the Egyptian people), the bad (the National Security, police forces) and the politician (Hosni Mubarak).
As Ayten Amin, one of the directors of the film, explained us after the movie the initial idea was to have three different documentaries. As they felt that each one of them was incomplete without the other parts, they decided to put them together in one full-length. I think it is wise decision, because they really complement each other – but expect a real aesthetic shift as well as an abrupt change in mood.
The good: The Egyptian Revolution was extensively televised, despite the effort of the regime to isolate the country. However, you are going to see the revolution from different angles in this film. The footage was taken by the media centre of Tahrir square; it was not filmed by professionals but by amateurs, the revolutionaries themselves. Expect some breathtaking scenes of people’s bravery against the oppressive and brutal regime.
Moreover, some engaged protagonists of the uprising are featured in the film looking back into how the revolution unfolded from a post-Mubarak standpoint. Particularly, they are shedding light into key moments that decided the fate of the revolution. For instance, one of the organizers of the very first gathering (via Facebook!) is explaining that the protest would be shut down by police violence unless a very big crowd would join quite unexpectedly.
The first part of the film is an ode to the universal values of freedom, of standing up against the oppressor, of taking care of each other in dramatic moments: the volunteer doctors taking care of the wounded, the people that were handing out food and water, the people that were collecting the garbage, the families, the mothers of the martyrs. The acts of defiance, the people rising up unarmed against a fully-armed regime. Bodies against guns, buttons and teargas. Tahrir was a free sovereign state for these 18 days, with its own media centre, decision-making etc.; even a marriage took place there.
Some of these scenes I have seen in demonstrations in Greece, in Copenhagen (COP 15) and elsewhere. It is moving to see that we are so similar, we are brothers and sisters, we are one – we are all people despite of our diversity. This ridicules unnecessary Arabophobia/Xenophobia that is propagated by conservative, dark institutions that want to see our world segregated and locked in isolation. I was both moved and excited by ‘the good’ part of the documentary. The Egyptians did they part (and they are still fighting); now it is time for us to do our part! Rise up!
The bad: The second part, or the ‘bad’ part is drifting us to the other side of the uprising: the ones that are ordered (and even want) to stop the revolution – the police and the National Security. It presents interviews of police men and police officers (only 2-3 have their faces revealed – and as expected most denied to be filmed for the documentary). We were explained by Ayten (it was her part) that it was difficult to record on camera what they were saying off-the-record.
Well, some of them admitted the corruption, the cover-ups of violence, the surveillance of intelligence agencies etc. that were defending the regime. Others were feeling that fighting the revolutionaries against their morality, but they had to do their job and obey the orders. They all argued that the massive numbers of their fellow Egyptians and their self-giving, sternly struggle made clear to them that the uprising would tear down the regime. As explicated, conquering Tahrir it was like conquering a nation.
The politician: The change of mood is quite notable in this part, as it has more of a satirical flavour about the elements that made the regime of Mubarak a dictatorship. This part presents a 10-step program on how to built a dictatorship. It reminded me actually another film, ‘the Corporation’, where the institution of corporation is examined stepwise as a schizophrenic personality. Even the close allies of Mubarak appeared to be quite critical to him. It is all there: controlling the media; brainwashing the population with (ridiculous) songs and huge photo-posters everywhere etc.
It can also act as a wonderful check list for all of us to apply to the regimes that are ruling us. I am sure you are going to identify some similar features! The question of how power can transform a person to identify his person as a nation is also there – the film gives also the psychological mechanisms that craft a person into a dictator.
Some examples are clear: you always create the feeling to the citizens that the country is always under threat, you identify a country with its leader so if somebody is against the leader (the dictator) you are against the country, you are not a patriot or even worse you are a friend of this unrecognizable enemy – you are a terrorist! Therefore such a regime strengthens its police forces, the army etc. to increase security because it is being constantly under threat! Check your nations; ‘security’ is the new buzzword of repressive regimes. As revealed all people that express a different voice (a fundamental process in a democracy) are being surveilled, filed – their phones are tapped etc.
The struggle in Egypt is not over – maybe the most burdensome phase is yet to come. We express our solidarity to the ongoing Egyptian revolution. A regime is deep-trenched in any country, it is the backbone of all institutions and it is a rather difficult and painful task to get rid of it fundamentally. Even in a massive direct revolution, like in Egypt, it takes time, devotion and real public engagement to heal the wounds of corruption and injustice and built a real people-powered system.
This film is about Egypt, but it is universal. We urge everyone to see it. It is made by engaged individuals, political activists, who touch upon a wide array of issues related to oppressive regimes and people’s uprising. It is a diverse, thought-provoking and well-delivered film that should be displayed everywhere for public inspiration.