EGYPTIAN INSURGENCY SHORT FILM FESTIVAL
This was a powerful group of films. I felt that they effectively communicated the raw emotion and energy of the January 25 Revolution as well as raised important questions about the future.
For myself, the most impactful of the films were those made by Omar Robert Hamilton. The hand-held, point-of-view documentary style created a visceral, emotional depiction of the revolution that gave the audience a first-hand look at what it was like to be in Tahrir Square. The footage of the rocks being thrown and army vehicles running over protesters was hard to watch but also gripping.
Although not about Egypt, it would be awesome to watch the short documentary My Aleppo in class. I think it is a great example of how film can be used to raise awareness about crises.
ORGANIZED FOOTBALL FANDOM IN EGYPT
Abd El Hameed’s analysis of the role of the Ultras soccer club in the January 25 Revolution made me consider the complexity of the revolution in regards to how many groups were involved. She argued that their struggle was political since the stadium in Cairo is a highly politicized space that is often used by political leaders.
The clubs brought organized chants and routines to the revolution, which helped in mobilizing people and lifting spirits. The group also creates an “imagined community” amongst its members and provides a social outlet and structure for young boys. It was interesting to learn that a non-politically oriented group had an important role in the revolution.
Who are the revolutionaries in terms of all of Egypt? Where do the different groups fit in?
How are the Egyptian people confronting trauma caused silence together?
After I left the Tahir conference, I felt as if I had stepped into a new world. The world I have heard of many times but never really got to hear about it first hand. I was so moved by all the of powerful energy I felt projected throughout the room, by people who had a close relationship to Egypt or lived there at some point. There was pride, pain, hope, and memories spoken by people in the conference. I was given the privilege to attend two panels one titled, Morbid Symptoms of Rule:the Invincible State, the Vulnerable State and another titled Bodies and Spaces: Moral Panics, Revolution, and Counterrevolution.
My favorite speakers from the first panel I listened to was Lina Attalah and Omar Robert Hamiltons. Lina really emphasized on how the Regime and State were different and if they could truly be seen as separate. Separate meaning if you could rule the state without owning it or own the state without ruling it. She also mentioned how Muslim Brothers failed to be guardians of the State. Omar Robert focused more on the economic aspect within Egypt. He brings up the importance the oil trade between Italy and Egypt and how it helped sustain their economy. This trade enabled the use of being able to make crude, petroleum, and refined oils. Robert also mentions how it was not just Italy that traded resources with them but Israel had a great influence as throughout many years. Recently there was an oil discovery in Egypt with the net cost of around 50 billion euro dollars which can help Egypt come to a stable state. The talks were both very intricate and detailed within the Regime and knowing the economical stance Egypt is in.
The second panel I heard from was Yahia Mohammad and Magda Boutrous both spoke about different issues in Egypt. Yahia Mohammad talked about queerness, skin color, and ethnicity affected him in Egypt. He addresses how difficult it is for him to be able to identify where people wanted him to belong. Mohammad was an activist in the queer movement and brought about issues in the political field. Even though these ethnicity and queer issues were an ongoing problem it was hard to talk about them because there were bigger issues like the revolution with the State. A great example he uses to explain his speech was, “Do I define identity? or Does identity define me?” This was a continuous thought he had and something that really got me thinking as well. Magda Boutrous was by far one of the most interesting and deep talks I heard from the two panels. She explains the research field study she was conducting which he ultimately decided to stop doing. Boutrous talks about her personal experience working in an physically and mentally draining environment with people who are prisoners. She wanted to get a firsthand experience and comments from people who were in captivity and know what lead them to be prisoners. People explained doing nothing, some defied the rules, and others were activists. The main reason which lead her to stop her field study was really moving and she was able to explain to others that it is okay to stop doing a research study when it is putting you messing with your sanity.
Another event I went to learn more background information about the Tahir revolution in Egypt was by attending a local film festival, which collect a set of short films that visually displays, discusses and raises overall awareness of what really happened in Tahir and after the president resigned.
The first set of short films laid the general foundation of the conference’s overall message in my opinion of to remember their actions and continue to move towards change to make it last for the long term. Anyways the first few short films had a collection of clips of protesters during the beginning and the highpoints of the protests in the Tahir Square. An illustration of this was a rough timeline on the different levels of opposition the protesters were dealing with over the span of the first 24 hours. From screaming insults to rocks being thrown at them to even some individuals throwing Molotov cocktails from the rooftops. Those series of clips made the whole event real to me more than any article about the subject could. On the hand, one of the other reoccurring themes these short films had was once in a while there would be a short clip of the day to day activities of people in Cairo. An example of this was a short video of two men handing and throwing large containers of coke bottles in the back of a local supermarket. These mundane activities were a breath air in the numerous acts and portrayals of violence.
Another aspect I observed towards the second half of the short film line-up was the use of artistic expression in the subject matter. An illustration of this expression came in the form of a set of b-roll, exterior shots of decaying neighborhoods or buildings. With that being displaying and audio clips gathered from a project called “Speak2Tweet” played in the background. Individuals were able to leave voicemails as a means to talk and protest these issues due to the shut-down of localized connections to the Internet.
Lastly my overall impressions of this film festival was this, I think it was a wonderful and successful idea to bring different designers, film makers and activists to document about these issues in a visual format. But after seeing all of the short films, some of the creators got caught up too much in the artistic expression aspect of their projects and may have lost sight of the overall message it tries to deliver in the first place.
After attending the After Tahrir panel conference at 1:30 pm about the Radical Democrats and Legacies of Combat with Momen El Husseiny, Omnia Khalil, Linda Herrera, Mozn Hasan and Ranwa Yehia, I realized that in many different aspects of the Egyptians lives they are controlled directly by the government or the powerful forces.
The speech that impacted me the most was the one of the Ultras on the Egyptian football teams. I know for sure that they also exist in the Spanish football teams and people are advised not to sit next to them because they can get very furious, but nothing more than that. However with the uprising in 2011 the Ultras in Egypt were beaten, they were also prevented from wearing the group banner or t-shirts and the leader of the group would be arrested before the game to prevent any type of revolt during these events.
The Egyptian uprising ended up banning the right to protest and occupy civic space, therefore anything the Ultras did would be against the law. Even though they tried to hide the protests by building the chants by voice and performance and creating sound based songs to get back their place in the stadium and the streets, they would still have a great opposition. For example, when they said swearwords this would be seen as much worse than if any other person would say a swearword in a football match.
“Revolutionist is and act on everyday bases. The idea of silence is a strategic movement of wait. The waiting culture.” – Momen. This comment really made me think that if the Ultras just waited and listened to what was going on maybe the campaign would have been more efficient. Many times we just start saying things without previously investigating about them and that is what takes us to commit errors. In this case I have to say that the Ultras were very brave to stand up on their beliefs no matter what was going on. The stadiums where very politicized and they just wanted a change.
Attending the Egyptian Insurgency Short Film Festival, on Sunday, Jan 24 at the Pollock Theater, was extraordinary and I was very impressed to be a part of such a professionally cultural and social experience. Intellectually pioneered from a creative perspective, the emotional events and experiences that liberated the Egyptian people could be felt throughout the film. Collectively, each of the film shorts respectfully depicted and honored both the Egyptian revolution and the Nation of Islam with gracious depictions of real life and lived experiences. The impressive quality and design of the film immediately caught my attention. I found myself responsively involved in the demonstrative events that followed the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and the fall of Mubarak. The works of digital media activist and design artist, Vj Um Amel with her innovative and award winning cyborg style of contemporary video distortion, were both vividly expressive and socially powerful. While the short film, Women and Youth of the Arab Revolution (2011), by social media theorist Laila Shereen Sakr was respectfully representative of the youth movements in chaos, the sensitively provocative landscape of explicitly recorded live cinema noticeably gives voice to an oppressed Arab woman, un-marginalizing the female perspective and placing it at the forefront of the digital revolution.
In contrast to the short film festival, the After Tahrir Conference complemented the revolutionary film with a collection in-depth panel discussions. One of the panelists noted that revolution is an ongoing process, in responding to the question of how will Egypt sustain democracy in a chaotic post-revolt Egyptian society both politically and economically. He further stated that thoughts about the past affirm that things will return to the complexity of the present moment through lived experiences. Another panelist saw human agency as an important factor in the current revolution. She stated that outside players will factor more in the future. Finding that the many perspectives of what is considered victory for the revolution will have to be addressed to move beyond the current point. All in all, I was quite pleased with the completeness of the combined experiences and will continue to stay informed on the ground-breaking revolution of the Egyptian people.
I attended the 1:30 to 3:00 PM speeches of today’s “After Tahrir” plenary session. Issues of identity were an important aspect of “Radical Democrats and Legacies of Combat: Strategies and Movements”. In Momen El Husseiny’s speech it was expressed that for the residents of the Al-Rehab compound part of their identity was where they lived. After this place-framed understanding of identity Dalia Abd El Hameed talked about how football ultras in Egypt serve as a source for group-identity and Ranwa Yehia mentioned the emergence of a new “pan Arab identity” as a “result of increased communication and cultural exchange allowed by the Internet”. Furthermore one’s role in the January 25 Revolution seems to be a strong marker for identity and in-group feeling. The mutual fight for human rights and political change seemed to tie people of various different backgrounds together.
The concept of identity stands in contrast to the concept of class. Of course one can identify oneself with the class one belongs to, but that does not necessarily have to be the case. While we choose to identify with one thing or the other, class is a concept that is imposed on us based on our origin, our financial resources and education. Our identities rest within us and might change when we change our values and beliefs. Our class however, is what we are often judged of from the outside and something that cannot be changed that easily.
During the Q&A session it was mentioned that it was class disparity that led to the revolution. Under this premise, the revolution can be seen as an attempt to break away from judging people based on their classes and to caring about people’s identities. Even though the revolution failed in obtaining political justice in the long run, it definitely created change in people’s minds and contributed to the “pan Arab identity” described by Ranwa Yehia. However, not only civilians, but also the ruling authorities must stop thinking of themselves as a higher class and react to the fact that a lot of Egyptians cannot identify with their government.
The Egyptian Insurgency Short Film Festival presented an interesting variety of clips. One question that arose in the Q&A session after the screening was in reference to a Kazeboon clip screened by Wael Eskandar. In this short film former president Morsi could be seen contradicting himself, either about his relationship to Israel or about his purported and later denied work with NASA. Eskandar answered the question about the funny atmosphere of the film by referring to the ridiculousness of Morsi’s behavior. Yes, the scenes seemed totally absurd, but the laughter can quickly turn into tears when one brings to mind how serious the situation was and how badly Egyptians were treated under Morsi’s rule. I later watched the 26-minute Kazeboon video on the aftertahrir.net-website, which included scenes about current president el-Sisi. This video again managed to show the absurdity of el-Sisi’s behavior and was then followed by shocking footage of rape and torture.
The Kazeboon videos were shown on the streets and I can only imagine how dangerous that must have been and what consequences would have followed if they had been caught. Those videos should not only be shown to Egyptians but to the whole world and especially those people who still don’t understand why those refugees don’t go back to where they came from.
Another Kazeboon clip screened at the festival was comprised of footage of Egyptian protesters combined with Matthew McConaughey’s monologue from “Interstellar” on the audio track. The words fit the situation in Egypt incredibly well and yet it was absurd considering the fact that phrases like “the ability to overcome the impossible” and “our proudest achievements” were originally meant to refer to astronautics. Space travel seems so trivial to much more vital issues like human rights. It is odd to think that we might better understand why something is happening in outer space than why something is happening on the planet we live on.