Its been two years since the Jan. 25th revolution in Egypt. Where are we? Where has this struggle for transformative change led us? At every critical juncture that this struggle has faced throughout the past two years, at every point that the goals of the revolution have been threatened, the slogan "The Revolution Continues" has emerged as a constant but hopeful reminder that what we started on Jan 25th remains a work in progress. For me, along with the team of The Square (Al Midan), the phrase meant that we would keep filming and that the story was far from over.
Exactly two years ago, I joined an amazing team, led by director Jehane Noujaim, with the aim of chronicling the stories in the square behind the news stories. I had been working for the New York Times and CNN and though my journalistic work took me to the front lines of the headlines, it was doing this documenting work that I was able to experience and really express the human emotion behind those stories. With time to film, and time to soak in what was going on, we could tell a story that was not being covered on the news. Mubarak's departure was just the beginning of a difficult struggle to build a new Egypt -- one that could bring depth and meaning to the immense human sacrifices that have been made in the name of the revolution's principles... "bread, freedom, and social justice."
Spanning Mubarak's departure to the aftermath of Mohamed Morsi's election as president, the film brings to light the journey of a group of Egyptian activists to push forward and fight for their respective visions for revolutionary change in Egypt. Breaking the mold of journalistic reports conveyed by mainstream media, the film conveys a deep understanding of the complexities of the fight for social change in the face of determined efforts to appropriate and undermine the revolution. It tells the story of how conviction and progressive ideals endure in the face of repression. It tells a story of the need to fight for every gain... and it tells the story of the efforts of political elites to sideline demands for revolutionary change through the façade of democracy.
The film shows how diverse individuals of different walks of life grapple with the challenge of resisting the narratives and propaganda of the wielders of power. Whether we are with our character Magdy, watching him question the orders of the Muslim Brotherhood or young Ahmed as he continues to fight in the streets -- we feel viscerally the fight that must continue in order to achieve the goals. Ordinary Egyptians, much like those featured in the film, have worked tirelessly through underground art and citizen journalism, to convince the public that, contrary to what those in power often assert, the revolution is far from over. The film tells the story of how in the face of state television and a corrupt media, our revolutionaries get their story out and are able to convince people to join.
The most overwhelming lesson that the experience of working on this film has left me with is that the Egyptian Revolution is under attack -- not only from the wielders of power in Egypt, but also from the one-dimensional narratives that the mainstream international media have often conveyed about Egypt during the past two years. Such distorted narratives leave the impression that the revolution has subsided with the departure of Hosni Mubarak and the sidelining of the military council, and that the salient struggles shaping the country today are between two different "former" revolutionary camps that are now split across Islamist-secularist divide. The story in this film counters these accounts by highlighting the extent to which the struggle for the revolution has not relented and that the same principles -- "bread, freedom, and social justice" -- that have rallied people against Mubarak in 2011 continue to unite them against the new wielders of power in Egypt. What we are facing right now is the use of democracy to legitimize dictatorship. Since Mubarak's downfall, some have left the Square, some have stayed, and some have returned, yet one thing remained true throughout: The Revolution Continues.