Director’s statement

The Uprising was inspired by the 18 days I spent in early 2011 watching the Egyptian revolution unfold 'live' over Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, on a minute-by-minute basis. Beyond the feeling that I was trapped in the wrong place -- that I should have been with my friends in Cairo, where I had lived and worked for many years, rather than stuck in a grey anonymous office in northern Europe -- I was overwhelmed by the raw energy and emotion which these videos conveyed. Rather than being alienated by the distance between us, I felt myself pummeled by the same wave of energy that was overturning the country and its people's assumptions. These films were not just reportage or witness, but a form of action in their own right.

Following the fall of Mubarak, as I explored more widely the videos that were being produced across the region, I saw how they would often echo one another, as if they were part of an ongoing conversation, in which symbols, actions, slogans and their images became the vectors through which the collective energy circulated and grew stronger. I also discovered in many of them a layer of spontaneous reflection on the act of filming, its power and its limitations, whose sophistication made their dismissal by many intellectuals as merely raw testimony or naive emotionalism difficult to comprehend.

To find the appropriate form for this material took me over two years, during which I not only watched hundreds of hours of YouTube videos, but also shuttled back and forward between Belgium and Egypt, screening work-in-progress prints to friends and strangers who had taken part in the Jan25 revolution, and gauging if not my success, then at least my more obvious failures, against their ability to recognise their own experience in the idiosyncratic mirror that I held up to them. Over this time, the structure of the film evolved radically. Eschewing both chronological history and political analysis, the final version proposes instead the linear narrative of an imaginary revolution that makes free with time and space -- in which a stone thrown in a street in Syria may land in a square in Libya, while the call to revolt in Cairo is answered by a crowd in Tunis or in Sana'a.

The Uprising is based, not on a naive belief in the power of spontaneous rebellion to usher in a perfect and just world, but on the incontrovertible evidence that video works. That it communicates an energy that can break down walls of isolation and fear, and transform people's lives. That it can preserve the individual voice without which the largest crowd is worth nothing. And that this call to refuse the humiliation and ridicule that governments heap upon those they govern, and to try and live instead with honour and with dignity, can speak directly not only to the people of these six Arab nations, but to all of us, everywhere