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Words of Witness cover photo

Words of Witness 2012


Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Produced by Mai Iskander
Directed by Mai Iskander
DVD, color, 88 min.

Jr. High - General Adult
Egyptian Politics, Arab Spring, Journalism

Date Entered: 01/11/2013

Reviewed by Christopher Lewis, American University Library, American University

This documentary follows 22-year-old budding journalist Heba Afify as she reports on political events in Egypt immediately following President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. The video continues up to the election of Mohamed Morsi in Spring 2012.

Ms. Afify is an idealistic young woman, committed as much to the promise of freedom and democracy borne in the protests as to the role of the journalist in fostering change. Her commitment to pursuing stories in what she knows to be extremely dangerous situations distresses not only her mother but the editors at her newspaper, Almasry Alyoum. Though not specifically addressed in the film, sexual harassment is epidemic in Egypt and Ms. Afify’s mother’s fears for her daughter’s safety will almost certainly be shared by the viewer.

Aside from her dogged pursuit of the stories, Ms. Afify is seen as a happy and loving daughter and sister, sharing news updates with her family, helping her mother learn to use Facebook, and stirring up excitement for the possibilities of change among those around her. Among the stories she pursues is the search for missing political prisoners, the discovery of classified files in the state’s security headquarters, the burning of a Coptic church in Afteeh, and accusations that state security forces are manipulating the protests. None of these are documented with much detail however. By the end of the video there is the sobering development that the long awaited presidential election comes down to a race between an old guard candidate and Mohamed Morsi, the Islamist candidate who won. In the months since the election and when the documentary was completed, Egypt remains unstable, and the visions of freedom and democracy that inspired the revolution have yet to be realized.

The events of Arab Spring were a momentous catalyst of change across the Middle East and good documentaries on the uprisings will be of great interest and demand particularly to high school and college-level viewers. This film’s use of a female voice to capture the emotional metamorphosis that the Egyptian masses are experiencing gives the viewer a very real sense of the fragility of the situation but also the hope and excitement that the youth of the country embody.