NYFF Spotlight: Tahrir

Posted by Michael Gibbons on 9.14.2011

Film: Tahrir
Director: Stefano Savona
Program: Special Events
Tickets: Oct 2, Oct 4

Why you should see it:
For many people, understanding the wave of protests that swept the Arab world in early 2011 was difficult: what was really happening, and what did this mean for the future? Director Stefano Savona demystifies the protests in Egypt by travelling to the front lines in Tahrir Square, Cairo. This verité documentary is given a contemporary edge with the presence of mobile phones and social media, portraying an unprecedented moment heavy with historical significance. Here we see the human faces of everyday Egyptians that toppled a regime that once seemed invincible.

Track record:
Locarno Film Festival

About the director:
Italian director Stefano Savona studied archeology and anthropology before beginning work as a freelance photography in 1995. In 1999 he began directing documentaries and video installations, and completed his first feature-length documentary, Notes from a Kurdish Rebel, in 2006. His documentaries are notable for tackling extreme situations head-first, like Palazzo delle Aquile, which won the Human Rights Award at BAFICI. He has also been collecting hundreds of testimonies for a visual history archive dedicated to the living memory of 100 years of rural civilization in Sicily.

Why make Tahrir? “Over the past twenty years, I have gone to Cairo almost every year and, like everybody who know and visit Egypt, I never expected the events of late January, early February 2011. On January 29, after hours in front of the al-Jazeera website, glued to the fragmentary and low-resolution online chronicle of the Egyptian Revolution, I decided to go there and see from close up who was on Tahrir Square, who were the thousands of people challenging the regime's state of emergency laws. I wanted to understand what exactly they wanted, what their political orientation and their symbolic points of reference were, how they imagined their future. Tahrir Square offered a unique opportunity to film the full scope of Egyptian society, people from all backgrounds and social classes, together for the first time, united in the sole cause of bringing down dictatorship, barricaded on this huge square where police and the thugs of the regime could not enter.” - Stefano Savona

What the critics are saying:
“A welcome contrast to the Western media’s bird’s eye view of the seismic January revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the energetic verité documentary Tahrir dives right into the action.” Eric Kohn, indieWIRE

“The sense of urgency never flags; neither does the protestors' deeply affecting pride in being Egyptian and finally taking control of their destiny. As one woman says, "We have our dignity back." Jay Weissberg, Variety 

"Tahrir records thrillingly the raw chaos of history, gives us the guts of revolt and will fascinate for years to come whatever besets the abused nation who is the film’s main character." James Woodall, The Arts Desk 

What the NYFF programmers say:
"Tahrir is a film by Stefano Savona, an Italian documentarist who soon after the occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo happened in January of this year, he just went there with his camera and literally lived there with the people in the Square and stayed there for weeks. So it becomes a very living, very vibrant record of that whole process. You really get the sense of what the day-to-day experiences of these people were like. Even though we’re watching the film and we know the outcome, there are moments that are genuinely terrifying, when you think that it’s just a matter of time... or moments before the army comes in to rush everyone out. You really feel in the course of this 90 minutes the fear, the anger, and finally the elation of the revolution and see the people who made it happen. Again, it’s a very lovely work." - Richard Peña, Program Director

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