January 25, 2011, the Egyptian revolution, locally known as the January 25 Revolution, began. It consisted of demonstrations, marches, occupations of plazas, non-violent civil resistance, acts of civil disobedience and strikes. Millions of protesters from a range of socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The revolution started by calls for protests from online youth groups. Violent clashes between security forces and protesters resulted in at least 846 people killed and over 6,000 injured. The uprising took place in Cairo, Alexandria and all major cities across the nation, and eventually led to then president Hosni Mubarak officially stepping down on February 11, 2011, only to be replaced by military rule.
The uprising has been documented in a handful of works of fiction and non-fiction, including a gripping documentary titled "1/2 Revolution," directed by Omar Shargawi and Karim El Hakim. It's a film I discovered while looking for films about revolution to watch over the last week. And it just happened to coincide with the anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution.
It's a visceral, first-person documentation of just a few days of the struggle(also referred to as the "Day of Revolt"), when protests erupted throughout Egypt, with tens of thousands gathered in multiple cities all over the country, targeting the then autocratic governance of President Hosni Mubarak (30 years in the making) - the poverty, unemployment, and government corruption.
Armed with consumer cameras, a close-knit group of friends risk death to capture the historic waves of non-violent protests, met with an equally determined and violent response from the government and armed forces, further intensifying the danger of the circumstances that would eventually envelope them in their neighborhood near Tahrir Square during the early chaotic days of the revolution.
The viewer is practically thrown into the uprising from the first frame to the last. You're right there with them, every step of the way (the tear gas, the batons, then the bullets) and are thus privy to events that you wouldn't have seen in the mainstream media - bodies, battered and bloodied, lifeless, being dragged across concrete pavement by fellow protesters, bullets lodged in flesh, the impassioned screams for change, voices angry and resolute, willing to die for a cause.
It's 72 minutes of relentless struggle and this viewer found it exhausting, as it should be. It suggests that the filmmakers accomplished what they set out to do with the film - not just paint a picture for the audience to view and analyze from a distance; we are thrown into the chaos, in the streets with them, as their struggle becomes ours as well; we're invested and want to see them (or rather us) succeed.
And succeed they do, at least with forcing Mubarak to eventually step down under pressure, but only to be replaced with military junta rule, hence the title of the film; meaning, the revolution hasn't ended.
A luta continua as the saying goes.
No pomp and circumstance, no flash, just raw footage of a few days of a historic moment in time, cut into a 72 minute rush.
A few moments of calm scattered about, usually filled with impassioned discourse about the events taking place, in real time, in the streets - the gunshots, the screams, the explosions just an ear-shot away; but it's mostly storm. And your appreciation for it will depend on your interest in and understanding of the real events the film documents; so a little backstory would help.
In fact, if I were to point out one of the film's *weaknesses* it would be that it doesn't give the audience enough information on what inspired this new revolution. There are exclamations here and there cursing Mubarak's 30-year rule, but a basic (at least) awareness of the country's recent history would be helpful here.
I couldn't help but think of another movie about a revolution - Gillo Pontecorvo's "The Battle Of Algiers" - the 1966 film on Algeria's struggles for independence from under French rule; a film and a revolution that went on to inspire others (films and revolutions), just as I think "1/2 Revolution" (directed by Omar Shargawi and Karim El Hakim) has the authenticity and power to do as well.
Watch a trailer for "1/2 Revolution" below and check out the film, which is available on home video in the USA.