Without a doubt, this period of global unrest is the most mediated in history—and only due to the rise of a global digital grassroots citizens media movement. Now that virtually every mobile phone is a camera, and most camcorders have become affordable, every protest seems to have its own crew filming itself.
Probably the most remarkable media collective at the moment is Mosireen (trans. “We the Determined”) in Cairo, founded last summer by London-born independent filmmaker and journalist Omar Robert Hamilton. The group’s first project, Tahrir Cinema, was basically an ongoing agitprop screening of footage from the revolution’s 18-day first phase in the now-famous square.
Since then, Mosireen has assembled a number of remarkably well-produced on-the-ground depictions of the revolution and its aftermath, including this recent piece on the brutal repression in the city from last month.
In his blog, Hamilton contrasts the seductive media landscape of Hollywood against the heavy-handed media manipulation that activists face in Egypt and notes:
“those of us working in the movies have an opportunity. There is so much room for improvement, so little competition, so few institutional frameworks to dismantle, that we have everything to play for. As we are imagining a new, fairer, world, so we must imagine a new, fairer cinema; not one that would come at the expense of story or entertainment, but one that shuns the primacy of the individual. One that moves away from the shot-reverse-shot formulae that soak the imagination out of the frame. One that isn’t afraid to try and capture reality rather than permanently worrying about financing the recreating of it.”
Thankfully, Hamilton’s notion to de-emphasize the individual didn’t prevent him from presenting wonderfully intimate recent footage of the last few days of detention of his cousin, the renowned dissident blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah, during which El-Fattah’s son was born.