Tahrir 2011: The Good, the Bad and the Politician: Venice Film Review

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Great immediacy in uneven doc shot from the Egyptian p.o.v.

The Egyptian doc covers Tahrir Square's revolution that ended in the arrest and trial of president Hosni Mubarak.

Huge immediacy and topicality are not inconsiderable virtues in a documentary attempting to  tell the world some true things about the Arab spring as it played out in Egypt, ending in the arrest and trial of president Hosni Mubarak. Shot from the demonstators’ viewpoint, the first part of Tahrir 2011, The Good, the Bad and the Politician captures the passion and excitement of the sit-ins in Cairo’s Tahrir Square far better than Western TV cameras.

After the film’s dynamite opening half hour, the second and third sections dealing with police response (bad) and why Mubarak was, indeed, a dictator, seem almost like redundant add-ons.  It remains to be seen whether going for feature length was a wise choice to win scattered festival and theatrical play outside Egypt.

Documaker Tamer Ezzat (The Place I Call Home) goes for the emotional jugular in the swift-paced “The Good” which documents the Tahrir Square demonstrations, the police reprisal and the exaltation of a people’s victory that ended a regime.

Following young Egyptians who were in the square, he sweeps from an unveiled girl who felt she just had to be there to a bearded Muslim belonging to the Young Brotherhood,  showing the unanimity of feeling that got people into the streets and kept them there under violent attack. The work of a photojournalist student is seamlessly intercut with newsreel footage in an effect of great immediacy.

Less compelling, possibly because it is overly detailed for foreign audiences, is Ayten Amin’s “Bad,” a review of how violent the police were towards the demonstrators, firing tear gas and rubber bullets and beating them with batons. The director’s interviews with Central Security officers yield pretty predictable results, as they try to defend and minimize their actions after the fact.

“The Politician” shifts tone and lightens the mood in Amr Salama’s satirical look at how Mubarak became a dictator and held on to power for 30 years. He traces the “Ten Rules” for being a good dictator, beginning with dying your hair to hide your age and getting people to sing adulating songs about you, to controlling the media.

In a classic sequence, Salama shows how a photo of Obama walking ahead of Mubarak was photoshopped into Mubarak leading and Obama trailing behind. This is fun but frothy stuff, even with a number of celebs like opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei having their say.

Venue: Venice Film Festival (Out of competition)
Production company: Film Clinic, Amana Creative in association with WDR, Ingredients Productions, SANAD
Directors: Tamer Ezzat, Ayten Amin, Amr Salama
Screenwriters: Tamer Ezzat, Ayten Amin, Amr Salama
Producers: Mohamed Hefzy, Frederic Sichler
Coproducer: Abdelasiem El Difraoui
Directors of photography: Hussein Asser, Ahmad Yaaqoob, Salah Yaaqoob, Mohamed Abd El Raouf, Ahmad Gabr
Music: Khaled Shokry, Ramy Essam, Ousso
Editors: Ayman El Tonsi, Doaa Fadel, Wael Farg, Eric Magriau
Sales Agent: Pacha Pictures
No rating, 90 minutes.