'Tahrir Filmmaker' ponders film's depiction of the police

Menna Taher, Wednesday 23 Nov 2011

Next Friday, 25 November, will be the Egyptian premiere of Tahrir 2011: The Good, The Bad and The Politician. Ahram Online talked to one of the filmmakers involved in the project

Tahrir 2011

After the initial feeling of euphoria following the ouster of Hosny Mubarak, many filmmakers infused with energy went about making documentaries. But things have changed since 11 February: massacres took place; the military, who had acted like the heroes of the revolution, detained around 1,200 civilians and tortured many.

Ayten Amin, one of three filmmakers who made Tahrir 2011: The Good, The Bad and The Politician, documented the first 18 days from the perspective of the police force. “My point of view has changed since the making of the documentary,” said Amin, enraged about the continued brutality of the police, especially since last Saturday.

“While making the documentary, though I despised the police, I was trying to bring out the human side of them and not to let my hatred affect my filming,” she said. “I was trying to analyze the police from a psychological point of view. I cannot deny that at some moments I sympathised with them. They are very complicated beings,” she continued. “Yet maybe being objective was wrong.”

When Amin interviewed the policemen, they were still defeated and weak. Equipped with a more vicious variety of tear gas, now, the police have been killing and severely injuring protesters for four days. Making the documentary was very tough for Amin. Out of 12 policemen she met with, only four agreed to be interviewed. It was also very tough for her, since the interviews were conducted indoors, each taking seven hours. “Usually, in documentaries, one follows the characters and visits their homes,” she said. “That was one challenge I had to face.

“At first I excused them because I thought they were brainwashed. I had met one policeman, who was teaching how to break up riots. Another told me off-camera that the officers need psychological rehabilitation,” she recounted. Talking to him about Mohamed Khan’s film Zawjat Rajul Muhim (The Wife of an Important Man), he said that the police are in fact exactly as depicted in the film. “They work 16 hours a day,” she said “It is only natural that they will act in an inhuman way.”

Another point she made was that a sense of superiority is infused in them in the police academy. “The problem is that some from inside the ministry of interior itself are against what is happening,” she said. “One officer, who resigned yet went back, was cursing the police on Facebook.” At present Amin sees that they have no excuse. “If there are good policemen within the ministry of interior, they should refuse to shoot at protesters,” she maintained “They should have learned from the 18 days. Now they are doing it consciously.”

One cannot shake off the video of the policeman who was shooting at the eyes of protesters and being congratulated by another. As for the film, Amin says it does include condemnation but also offers space for the viewer to contemplate. “It is a quiet film,” she said.

Each part of Tahrir 2011 was made by each filmmaker individually. “We did not consult each other on the style of the film because we wanted each part to be the director’s own. And they are highly different, yet somehow they complete one another and give a comprehensive outlook on the 18 days, for those who only got their information from the news.”

Screening the film at the Venice Film Festival, many of the European attendees said it gave them perspective on what had happened. This is the first time Amin makes a documentary; she jokingly says it may well be the last. “What is nice about documentary films is the process of discovery,” she said, “and it gives you a lot of experience. But as a filmmaker I like to have a plan,” she said, “and with documentary films you have to just get along with what is happening. I like to tell a story the way I see it,” she concludes.

Tahrir 2011: The Good, The Bad and The Politician has already been screened in a number of international film festivals, including the 68th Venice Film Festival (August/September 2011), the 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival (September), and the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (October).

Friday 25 November, 6.30 pm - Galaxy Cinema: 67 Abd El Aziz Al Saud St., El Manial
Tuesday 29 November, 6.30 pm -  Stars Cinema: Omar Ibn El Khattab St., Nasr City

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