TIFF 2011: “Tahrir” documents a revolution

Ahead of the TIFF Mavericks' screening of Tahrir 2011: The Good, The Bad and the Politician, one of the doc's filmmakers speaks to realscreen about getting Egyptian police to speak on camera about Tahrir Square, and what she wants Toronto's audience to get from the film.
September 16, 2011

Tahrir 2011: The Good, The Bad and the Politician consists of three films directed by three different Cairo-based filmmakers: Tamar Ezzat, Ayten Amin and Amr Salama. Each of the films tells different stories relating to the uprising in Tahrir Square, which culminated with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepping down on February 11.

Tahrir‘s producer Mohamed Hefzy brought together the three directors, who all knew each other, to document the events that took place in downtown Cairo. All three docs feature footage from Tahrir Square’s media center, a tent set up to collect footage from the demonstrators.

While the film takes on different elements of the revolution – Ezzat’s The Good documents some of the characters who contributed to the uprising and Samara’s examines the psyche of Mubarak with a satirical ’10 Steps to Becoming a Dictator’ – first-time director Ayten Amin’s The Bad looks to answer the question she was curious about herself: What were the police officers and security forces thinking during the uprising?

“Before, I never talked to police officers,” she tells realscreen. “Usually they scared me. During the events, particularly on [January] 25,  I saw them beating some people and arresting some of my friends so I was very curious towards what were they thinking about us.”

She managed to convince four officers representing different outlets of Egypt’s ministry of the interior to give their insight into what happened, but it wasn’t an easy task.

“I met with 12 [officers] and I finally got four in the film. Some of them approved and then they changed their minds because it was too risky for them and I understand. There was a fifth that I shot but he didn’t make it into the film because he told me things [off camera] but when he was on camera, he completely changed everything and was being evasive,” she recalls.

Two of the police officers in the film have their faces obscured, but it remains to be seen what the consequences of their participation will be, since the film hasn’t screened in Egypt.

“Our producer wants to release it [in Egypt] because we’ve never had documentaries released in cinema in Egypt before. It will be the first so we’re hoping that we won’t have trouble with censorship. My part is the part that will have problems with censorship because there is some information in there that they don’t want [out].”

She hopes that international attention, brought about from film festivals such as the Toronto International Film Festival and Venice, which Tahrir also recently screened at, will help in the quest to screen the documentary in Egypt.

As for Toronto’s screening, she hopes that audiences understand more than the headlines of what happened in February. “The most important thing that happened for me in those 18 days was there was a spirit in the country that I’ve never experienced before. This is the thing that I want people to feel because it was remarkable,” says Amin.

“Tahrir” screens in TIFF’s Mavericks program on September 17 at 3:15 p.m EST.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.