Political scientist Fredrik Stanton wasn’t born to be a filmmaker: In its opening reel, his debut doc Uprising feels stiff, constructed of bullet points and clumsy informational text. But once he gets the background out of the way, Stanton’s interviewees take over — giving this account of Egypt’s 2011 revolution a moving immediacy. Lack of cinematic polish limits commercial prospects, particularly for a subject so widely covered by veteran journalists. But those viewers who find it will appreciate its reliance on first-hand accounts and its you-are-there grasp of chronology.
Stanton is stiff in recounting the revolution’s origins, though his straightforwardness may be appreciated by viewers who weren’t paying enough attention at the time. He does make fresh the astonishment protesters had when they saw simple gestures — starting a group on Facebook, say — moving enormous numbers of people to join the public outcry.
The director is even a bit short on footage from the early hours of January 25, 2011, when the main event began — he’s still relying on (well chosen and plentiful) interviews until we get to that evening, when Hosni Mubarak’s riot police rolled in to try and quash protests.
From then on, though, Stanton has enough footage — from news organizations, citizen journalists, and bystanders’ camera phones — to augment first-hand accounts that grow more effective as the stakes increase. Interviewees recall the moments in which they realized they were standing in the middle of something bigger than just another protest, the moments they and those around them agreed they would willingly die to change their country, and few viewers will fail to be moved.
The film gives only a bare-bones account of how Mubarak’s sluggish, awkward response to the movement was greeted by other nations, and offers only some closing titles to summarize the not-always-satisfying aftermath of his relinquishing power. But its account of the week beginning January 25 feels like a solid, layman-friendly addition to the West’s understanding of this chunk of history.
Production Company: Rebellion Films
Director-Screenwriter: Fredrik Stanton
Producers: Alexander Davidis, Samer Ezeldin, Fredrik Stanton
Executive producers: Fredrik Stanton, Alexander Davidis, Don Glascoff
Director of photography: Samer Ezeldin
Music: Robert Babicz
Editor: William James Hamilton
No rating, 84 minutes