Having fired long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak and hired President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s experiment in democracy is a work in progress. Where it goes is a mystery. But where it began is the focus of a highly informative and compelling new documentary.
Uprising, a well-crafted first film by my friend Frederik Stanton, chronicles the protests and mass mobilization that toppled Mubarak on February 11, 2011. At that point, Mubarak had ruled Egypt for almost 30 years, allegedly swiping billions of dollars along the way. Stanton shows Mubarak sitting immediately beside former president Anwar Sadat just moments before assassins fatally shot him during an October 1981 military ceremony. Mubarak somehow dodged the bullets. He then declared a state of emergency and maintained that declaration until he finally was driven from power.
At the film’s New York City premier on Friday, Stanton called 2011’s events “perhaps as momentous as the collapse of the Berlin Wall.” Through fresh interviews, professional news footage, and cell-phone and video-camera images captured by the demonstrators who filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Stanton takes us step-by-step through the causes of the popular revolt, the pro-democracy activists’ organizational efforts, and their ultimate triumph in knocking Mubarak from his perch. Along the way, we hear stories of true valor, such as that of the ten or so Egyptian men who attacked one of Mubarak’s deadly snipers. With bare hands, they rushed his rooftop nest, knowing that at least three or four of them would be killed, but the state-sponsored gunman ultimately would be neutralized, and citizens in the square no longer would be victim to his bullets.
We also see riveting images, such as young people neutralizing tear-gas canisters by lobbing them into the Nile (in this case, it’s just a river in Egypt). In a bizarre and comical turn, Mubarak’s henchmen ride into Tahrir Square, determined to disband the rebellion. Their arrival resembles an urban version of Lawrence of Arabia.
“We began the revolution on Facebook,” one activist laughs. “And now they’re fighting us on camels and horses. It’s like a return to the pre-Islamic era.”
This film goes no further than Mubarak’s exit. To say the least, what has followed him is anything but pre-Islamic. To learn where Egypt goes next, watch the news. To see how it secured regime change two years ago, see Uprising.
(Uprising is in limited release at the Quad Cinemas in New York City and the Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, California.)