Review: Words of Witness


Hot off the streets of turbulent Cairo, this work of cinema verité tells the current story of the hopeful Egyptian revolution through the concerned eyes of a 22-year-old, tightly-scarved journalist named Heba Afify.

After Hosni Mubarak’s resignation on Feb. 11, 2011, the Egyptian people restlessly wait for the promised new constitution and release of political prisoners. They have no fear expressing themselves in front of the camera and passions run high.

During one scuffle, where dissidents have to be restrained from one another, Heba muses, “When can we share our opinions without yelling at each other?”

Though her father recognizes the need for a journalist to witness breaking news, her mother worries about her safety. Heba must thread herself through close contact in Tahrir Square to broach interviews with the fuming protestors. They have remained to monitor the government’s promise to release prisoners and write a new constitution. Often, she is the only woman in an region renown for its bias against her freedom.

Mai Iskander, a Brooklyn-based filmmaker, produced, filmed and directed this excellent documentary. She gives some background and footage on Mubarak’s rule, which was allegedly involved in torturing or killing more than 30,000 activists and journalists who spoke out against his regime. She follows Heba at home, in her workplace and in the field.

Strangely, it was the people of Egypt who rose up to beg the army to intervene and protect them. As Mubarak left, signs read, “The Army and the People will complete the journey!” But as power can be a natural lubricant for arrogance and corruption, soon the army not surprisingly passes regulations restricting the power of the new president the people will elect.

Iskander counts down the days from Mubarak’s departure to an election on how soon there should be an election. Then she reports on the candidates and how the country splits its votes. After the run-off and election of the new president, the protestors are still in the square, still waiting for the promised release of prisoners and the construction of a new constitution.

“Words of Witness,” part of the Voices in Action Human Rights Series, shows on Oct. 23 at Portland’s Northwest Film Center. It gives clear information on the historical facts of recent months, the sequence behind Egypt’s “spring” and the various forces in competition. Most of all, it is a tribute to Heba Afify, a brave new type of Moslem woman who cares about her people and their rights.

“Words of Witness” – Oct. 23, 2012
Portland Art Museum Northwest Film Center
Voices in Action: Human Rights on Film Series
Oct. 4 to Nov. 7, 2012

Film Credits

Producer, Director and Cinematographer: Mai Iskander (Iskander Films in Brooklyn , NY)
Country: USA | Egypt
Language: Arabic | English
Filming Location: Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt
Runtime: 70 min
Released: 2012

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1 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. bal #

    This is some inspirational stuff.