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Mosireen Media Collective calls for donations online to remain independent

The radical media collective starts an online campaign to raise $40,000 for projects and activities centered around revolution coverage, archiving and filmmaking over the next year and a half

Rowan El Shimi, Sunday 23 Sep 2012
Tahrir Cinema during the July 2011 Sit-in (Photo: Rowan El Shimi)
Views: 2279
Views: 2279

This month, Mosireen Film Collective – an initiative born out of the Egyptian revolution with the purpose to film, archive and dissiminate visual information – started collecting donations on the crowdsouring website indiegogo with the target of $40,000 in order to support their activities over the next year and a half.

It is widely felt that Egypt's media, whether state-run or private, has done a poor job of covering last year's Egyptian uprising, from Tahrir Square to other protest sites around the country. In order to counter regime-biased coverage, Mosireen came to exist.

A non-profit collective of filmmakers that is open to volunteers and members of the public, Mosireen's main purpose is to document post-revolution Egypt and disseminate information to give an alternative to mainstream media propaganda.

Mosireen's YouTube channel has had more than three million views and is ranked as the most viewed non-profit channel ever in Egypt, and most viewed for the month of January 2012 in the whole world.

Resolutely independent

Mosireen, their name a play on words between the word 'Egypt' and 'Determined' in Arabic, since their birth in the months following the January 2011 uprising have valued their independence as a media collective over everything else.

"The main difference between us and any private or public media is our independence," Lobna Darwish, one of the founders, told Ahram Online. "We are not depending on advertising, people giving us money so we do what they want, or anything of the sort."

Darwish also underlined that they did not wish to apply for grants and end up working to satisfy a donor's agenda instead of their own.

"The idea for us is to serve the community with information, coverage, training, and the equipment we are providing," Darwish said, adding that from the very start, the founders made a decision to depend on the people for funding their activities. "Let's see what the people of Egypt, the people who love the revolution, can do," she added.

So far, the group has been relying mostly on large donations from some individuals, along with a donation box set in their space in order for people attending their events to contribute.

"At the end of the day, the people who come to the space are not as many as the people who watch the videos online," Darwish explained. "That's why we are hopeful for the online campaign, because we can reach the people who like what we are doing and want to support us, but don't come to the space."

Collective activities

The filmmakers collective has many activities. Amongst them they host an archive of revolution footage that is open to the public and under a creative commons license; meaning anyone is free to use the footage for non-commercial purposes.

The archive is over 10 terabytes and growing. Besides the archive, the collective also produces short films regarding different issues and events surrounding the revolution, to raise awareness of facts and perspectives from the street.

At the moment, the collective is recruiting volunteers to help file this archive as the footage can be used beyond making films for evidence in cases against regimes for police brutality towards the protesters.

Mosireen has their own space, an apartment in busy Downtown Cairo, one of Cairo's oldest neighbourhoods and the center of the revolution's protests. The space is open to the public as a workspace with facilities such as internet, a meeting room, editing rooms and filming equipment available for rent. Mosireen also run a google calendar for political events around the country.

The space hosts regular film screenings on Tuesdays of independent films that are subtitled in Arabic, meant to inspire, inform people about the different people movements around the world, and educate on how to make better films.

The group have hosted the Palestinian film month, the Syrian film month along with films about movements from Argentina, France and many other countries. As a preview to the films, Mosireen also put on a short video of political news from somewhere in the world.

The collective also hosts filmmaking workshops covering all aspects from shooting, editing, uploading, labeling and sharing on social media sites. Most importantly, these workshops cover group work and how to create films collectively.

Another element of these workshops is giving people the tools on how to host street screenings of these films, such as Tahrir Cinema (another project by Mosireen) and the Kazeboon (Liars) screenings that were taking place nationwide around the time of the revolution's anniversary in 2012.

Recently, this project evolved to the Rahal (traveler) project where the group hosts trainings in other governorates in Egypt.

"Media in Egypt is very centralised in Cairo, so the idea was to create groups like Mosireen but in other places in order to create their own news," Darwish said. "We hope that one day we can create a network between these groups to create a news channel from all around the country where everyone can make their own reports," she added with a hopeful smile.

So far, Rahal has reached Alexandria, Mansoura and Suez. Mosireen are planning on reaching out to Upper Egypt next.

Street reporting

Mosireen's coverage is sometimes news from the ground when protests or police clashes are happening, other times the videos are more investigative, trying to go deeper into an issue, along with interviews with victims of torture or police brutality.

Over the summer, Mosireen launched the "Stealing Our Bread" project, under which a series of videos about people's rights are produced. These short documentaries cover the revolution's goals from a more social rather than a political perspective.

"Like the rest of the revolution, we felt cornered." Darwish said. "We decided that the way out would be to bring back the demands of the revolution: bread, freedom and social justice."

The films, under this slogan, look deeper into the themes that surround these demands such as: the right to housing, healthcare, education, livelihood, a clean environment, and freedom from torture.

The campaign will next tackle the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan that the Egyptian government is set to take, which many activists are against. "We want to create a bridge between experts and the people," Darwish explained.

Find Mosireen's online campaign on indiegogo here.

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