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Egyptian filmmakers rush to document the revolution

Egypt's filmmakers are thronging to record the manifold stories of the Egyptian revolution on celluloid

Menna Taher, Thursday 7 Apr 2011
The Story of the Revolution
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With Egyptian history being made with every passing day, filmmakers in the country appear to turn their backs on the "luxury" of the long feature film, and are scrambling to make documentary or short feature films, recording the Egyptian revolution or capturing from a whole range of angles. 

“It's important to try to document [the current events] now, but to shape it into a drama needs time as you learn the real meaning behind every event,” said the filmmaker Amr Salama.

Salama is finishing up his film Asmaa, starring, Tunisian born female star Hend Sabry, and is also working on a documentary along with filmmakers Ayten Amin and Tamer Ezzat, and produced by Mohamed Hefzy. The documentary is divided in three different parts; one about the police, the other about the revolutionaries and the third - his part – about the politicians during the Mubarak era.

Tahany Rached and Mona Asaad are also working on a documentary following the current events.

“Part of doing it is to understand the events ourselves,” said Assad. “We are concentrating on the social changes that have affected people and selecting different individuals, who became pro-active during the events. One is a 50-year-old man, who was an activist in his younger days and now has found different ways to contribute,” she explains.

The documentary is produced by Studio Masr, albeit on a tight budget. “All the crew are volunteers because of their interest in the project,” she continued.

Asaad said that they are still not sure whether the documentary will be compiled as a film or a separate series.

Intifadat Intifadat, an online initiative for short documentaries also plans to document events, especially those stories that are not getting enough media attention. The topics of their interest include worker’s rights and accounts of torture.

They have screened one of their documentaries in Berlin and won the prize for best documentary in the AUC series: Egypt Rising.

“We want anyone who has an interesting video to send it to us,” said Jasmina Metwaly, one of the contributors. Metwaly believes that all the videos on national television are idealising the revolution and they mean to counter that idea. “The revolution is not over,” Metwaly said.

A group of filmmakers including Youssry Nasrallah, Marwan Hamed, Kamla Abou Zikry, Mariam Abou Auf and Sherif El Bendary are making a series of shorts, compiled into one film, all revolving around moments during the uprising and intend sending it to the film festival at Cannes.

“I wasn’t going to make a film about the events as I don’t believe in including political statements in my films. I like to concentrate on individuals; their suffering, their character and their interaction with others,” El Bendary said.

“This is why I made a film about an old man with his grandson in Suez, trying to get home after the curfew and the obstacles they faced on the way.”

Kamla Abou Zikry chose to make her film during the first day of the protests, the symbolic 25 January.

“The films all take place during the period from 25 January until the resignation of Mubarak,” said Abou Zikry.  She revealed that it revolves around a blonde woman in the protests.

Abou Zikry was also shooting a series adapting Sonallah Ibrahim’s novel Zaat, which is at a standstill at the moment because of lack of funds. She has been working on it for seven months now.

Another group of directors are also creating a series of shorts, which will be produced by the Adl Brothers. Filmmakers include, Saad Hindawy, Ahmed Ghanem, Ayten Amin and Hala Khalil.

Tamer El Saeed was also asked to join, but he is uncertain if he will participate because he must finish his film In the Last Days of the City, starring Khaled Abdallah.

The film revolves around a filmmaker in his mid-30s reminiscing about a childhood when Cairo and Egypt seemed brighter. It also relays the stories of his friends from Iraq and Lebanon, and is shot in Cairo, Baghdad, Beirut and Berlin.

Khairy Bishara is also working on editing his first English film Moondog. The film, a biography is half-confessional, half-magical realism and a self-funded low-budget feature.

Many short videos will be distributed on Youtube are also in the making. Karim El Shennawy, the director of the satiric short Article 212, is making its sequel - Article 212 with amendments.

Another 11-minute video entitled Hekayet El Thawra, (Story of the Revolution) directed by Nagy Ismail, features many actors and artists, including Amr Waked, Asser Yassin, Basma, Youssra El Lozy, Mahmoud Hemeida and Tarek El Telmesany reciting poetry by Ahmed Haddad.

The video will be aired for the first time on television in the show Baladna Bel Masry on 7 April at 9 pm.

Tamer El Ashry is also making a video of Haitham Dabbour’s poetry to be distributed on Youtube.

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