Tonight at the Barbican Centre, a look inside the Egyptian revolutionby Rachel Halliburton / July 4, 2012 / Leave a comment
½ Revolution plays at the Barbican as part of the East End film festival on 4th July, and will be followed by a Q&A with the directors. It also appeared at this year’s Sheffield DocFest.
Mohamed Morsi may have been sworn in as Egypt’s first civilian president in 60 years this weekend, but there’s little sense of a resolution to the story that began in Tahrir Square last year on 25th January. In his speech on the eve of his swearing in he spoke passionately about a “civil, nationalist, and constitutional state.” Yet try as it may, inspirational rhetoric cannot eradicate the facts: the low turnout for the elections, the military’s cynical seizure of sweeping new powers, and worries about what the dominance of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood will really mean for Egypt’s minorities. This is a country still very much in political flux. It’s an apt moment, then, to look back on how it all started, when people didn’t know yet the enormity of what they were recording, they just knew it had to be recorded.
“Film from the fucking balcony. Just do something. Film anything, just shoot some footage.” After a brief introductory sequence, the opening dialogue of ‘½ Revolution’ ricochets off the screen. Directed by Karim El Hakim, an American-educated Egyptian who lives in Cairo, and Omar Shargawi, a Danish-Palestinian from Copehhagen, the film received plaudits from Naomi Wolf among others when it was screened at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Right from the start it plunges us into the febrile atmosphere that heralded the end of Mubarak’s regime. It is an edgy, slickly edited piece of cinema vérité, a stylishly fractured portrait of a group of friends who have gathered in Cairo to work on one film, and suddenly find themselves making another as history overtakes them in a flurry of tanks and Molotov cocktails.
“I’m an Egyptian but I don’t look Egyptian, which can be useful and disturbing at the same time” El Hakim tells me on the phone. “There’s a lot of suspicion of foreigners here, and politicians often play that card to distract people from the real issues.” He thinks Morsi’s election is “Good and bad. The best thing is…