Film + Q&A Session Recap

Egypt: The Story Behind the Revolution

Washington, DC | | December 21, 2011 -- Tuesday evening, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) opened its doors to more than 50 community members, leaders and academics for the screening of independent documentary film, “Egypt: The Story Behind the Revolution,” as part of its Arabesque Lecture Series. Director, Khaled Sayed and film interviewee, Amal Mattar came to the ADC Heritage Center to present the film for the first time in Washington DC.

Sayed filmed the documentary primarily in Egypt in March of 2011, soon after the January uprisings, and interviewed a variety of young protesters who were active in the revolution. The film pulled together a span of interviews, and news coverage, culminating in a broad, cross-societal reflection on what happened during the Egyptian revolution and why; giving the audience a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the way in which activists harnessed the power of collective consciousness to form a people’s revolution.

Interviewees included prominent Egyptian analysts and academics who lent insight into the origins of unrest and discontent under Mubarak’s 30 year rule. Interviewees discussed the evolution of the demonstrators’ demands which culminated in Mubarak’s resignation. The uprisings, which began as a movement by young, educated, upper middle class Egyptians, gathered momentum across the generations and classes of Egyptian society. 

Those interviewed offered their reflections on life in Egypt under Mubarak and their motives for getting involved in the revolution, the role of social media as an organizing tool, and finally, their hopes for a democratic and free Egypt in the future.  

The film included analysis of the United States’ response to the uprising as a reflection of its strategic interests in the region. Further, activists interviewed discussed tactics used to grow their numbers, organize, and overcoming police attempts at suppression. Especially poignant were eyewitness accounts of interfaith unity as a symbol and vision of a future Egypt that is inclusive and tolerant.

Following the screening, a lively discussion ensued as Sayed and Mattar fielded questions from audience members. The revolution continues to this day as the military has taken control of the country, and demonstrators now struggle against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

Audience members expressed frustration with the United States government providing financial aid and tear gas to the SCAF. The discussion also included concerns about the waning momentum of the revolution and the drop in the number of demonstrators in the streets. Both Sayed and Mattar cited converging issues of education, poverty and divided sentiment toward the Egyptian military as reasons for low participation. Sayed mentioned, “Police wait until [protesters] become smaller in numbers and then attack.”  “People have work, they are there on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, but then must return to work”

“Interview people in their homes and ask them why they aren’t back in the streets,” one Egyptian-American woman asked, “If we are going to be in the streets with this amount of people, the revolution is dead.  How can we get our revolution back?”

Mattar cited the strong role that Egyptian women as activists and that they are playing a crucial role in keeping the revolution alive and driving it forward, persevering through abuse, intimidation and degradation at the hands of SCAF. She mentioned the thousands of women who marched earlier that day, protesting the current military rule.

Following the Q&A, attendees mingled and discussed their reactions to the film. Muthana Rahman, a Middle East Studies master’s candidate at the University of Chicago, commented: “I felt that the film gave an in-depth view of (the situation) more than what I’ve seen and read from the New York Times and Al Jazeera. It illuminated the reactions of the Egyptian activists who recalled what happened. Further, it explains the low polling results among Egyptians toward the US Government.”

To learn more about the film and the work of Khaled Sayed, visit

Stay tuned for information about the next Arabesque Lecture Series event in January where we will discuss Arab American perspectives on the upcoming 2012 elections.