We catch up with up-and-coming director Alia El-Masry ahead of the premier of her first documentary, Apeture, tonight at Darb 1718.
If you’re looking to angry up the blood ahead of the 30th June demonstrations, then we strongly recommend catching the premier of Aperture playing tonight, 24th June, at 8:30pm at Darb 1718. Directed by first-time documentarian Alia El-Masry, the 57-minute independent movie looks back at the January 25th Revolution and seven specific events that occurred at the time, by asking a variety of people who were physically or psychologically involved questions on how the see things in retrospect, and importantly, how they see things going forward. We catch up with El-Masry to find out more:
What were your feelings towards the country leading up to January 25th?
Never in my wildest dreams did I think an uprising was possible in Egypt. I did not think that we were capable of taking such an action. The situation before the 25th was horrible, and I lost hope for any change. People were extremely aggressive and hostile towards each other, and I truly felt like a foreigner in my own country.
Had you heard there were going to be demonstrations on the 25th before the 25th, and what did you expect was going to happen?
I heard about it through family, and got excited for the possibility but to be honest, I did not think it will grow and escalate like it did. I actually think things started escalating after the internet was cut off and people were disconnected from the virtual world. A lot of people I interviewed, for example, went down because they needed to figure out what was really happening in reality, especially when they heard there was violence.
When did you decide that you wanted to make this documentary?
I was in Kingston, Canada, doing my masters in Cultural Studies at Queens University. The idea of a documentary came to me when people here started asking me all these different questions about what really happened. They were being informed by the western media and all they knew was that we had an uprising, we threw out Mubarak, we elected Morsi and all is good. However, the story did not end there; it was only the beginning. I thought instead of explaining what happened to every single person I met, I would make a documentary that answered questions and stressed that the revolution is still ongoing.
Is the majority of the footage you use original or stock footage?
I interviewed 15 different people and I was able to show 13 of them … so 13 interviews are mine. Although, there were few statements from people who worked in No to Military Trials for Civilians that I borrowed from Mosireen (http://mosireen.org/). I also borrowed a few more videos from three newspapers: Egypt Today, Al Shorouk and Al Watan, and one video from Joel Sames.
What was the hardest part of making it?
I have always been interested in movie making; however, I never created a film from scratch. I knew I needed help, and luckily enough, I met interesting people who were in the process of starting their production house in Cairo. They agreed to help with editing and shooting.There were a lot of ups and downs in the process itself and a lot of technical problems. The whole process was extremely stressful for me. So the film creation took longer than I thought it would and it was definitely a learning process for me. Another problem I faced was the daunting task of trying to show all the events, while covering all the sides. Each event could have been a movie on its own.
What do you hope people will get out of this documentary?
For western audiences, I hope it gives them an idea of the uprising post Mubarak stepping down, and how the struggle is still ongoing. I also wanted to emphasise that it was not social media that was responsible for the uprising, it was visual media (photos like Khaled Saeed’s which represented the violence and injustice that Egyptian people go through).
To Egyptian audiences, the movie won’t be informative because they all lived these stories but I am hoping it will remind them why we first revolted and why we still have to continue this revolution until we achieve what we initially wanted. This is why it was crucial to show the film before 30th June.
What advice do you have for women trying to be heard in a male dominated society?
First of all: just go for it.Women in Egypt are going through the hardest time now. We are judged constantly and we constantly feel unsafe. The only way to break the cycle, I think, is to truly realise who we are and what we want to accomplish in life and go for it. We will definitely face more resistance, won’t be taken seriously in the beginning, but we only need to prove them wrong. So be stubborn and have faith.
What does the future hold for you now?
I decided to open a production and distribution house in Canada called Averroës. It aims to expose North American audiences to films that explore content from beyond their borders. I am starting it with three partners; Nicole Bedford, Zaira Zara and Nafisa Murji and we are all women. The first trial was getting a film called In the Shadow of a Man, by Hanan Abdalla, screened in Kingston. I wanted to see how people here would respond and it was great. We are working now on a new short feature that will be shot in Cairo but edited here in Canada.
Aperture will be screened at 8.30pm on 24th June at Darb 1718. For further information and a clip of the trailer, click here.