CAIRO: More often than not people equate the unprecedented with the improbable.
Such an inclination was evident this spring as the unprecedented occurred allowing many throughout Egypt to consider what had once been rendered improbable. As quickly as this change has ensued so has the effort to document, educate and empower the public by raising awareness on the new opportunities available. This movement has found an outlet in the growing interest surrounding documentary films in Egypt.
Bridgid Maher, filmmaker and writer who heads the New Media concentration in the Media Arts Division at the American University in Washington, D.C., recently completed a visit to Egypt where she facilitated a number of workshops on how to create low-budget documentary pieces and how to go viral on social networks. The workshops took place in several venues throughout Cairo and Alexandria and were attended by not only film students, but also people from many walks of life seeking to harness their outlook on the revolution.
“Short stories can and have helped illustrate the mosaic of experiences around this communal movement. I saw this reflected in the varied stories that came out of the workshops that I taught,” said Maher when asked how the documentary pieces aid in Egypt’s progression toward democracy.
The discussion based workshops provided a forum for the exchange of views and techniques regarding new approaches to technology as well as the identification of stereotypes within the context of collaboration. Also the workshops allowed for explanations of the varied ways of producing a documentary film.
“You have to acknowledge who the people are in the room while seeking a way to best depict the character or message surrounding each documentary,” said Maher when speaking of the workshops.
This growing interest in documentary film in Egypt has been seen at the American University in Cairo (AUC). Here students have engaged in collaboration while seeking to document and express their views of the revolution and life in Egypt.
This collaboration was on display this summer as AUC began the first annual Cairo Documentary Festival. The theme for this year was “Egypt Rising;” an arrangement decided upon last August an ironic coincidence, but equally as fitting.
“There is an increased interest in filmmaking by the youth and that is reflected in the increased number of films being made,” said program director Malek Khoury to AUC Press.
When asked about how he has gauged the growing interest in documentary film Khoury said, “The film program at AUC is evolving both in the number of its students and talent. These students have used their creative authenticity, their passion for cinema and cinematic expression to contribute to the learning experience.”
These documentaries have been highly influential in exhibiting the importance of ordinary citizens participating in the process of shaping and securing a new democratic prospect.
By featuring individuals and portraying life in Egyptian society these stories have enabled viewers to not only relate to the many pockets of Egyptian society but also document the changes across the country.