Egypt uprising film depicts crippling social divide

Mon Oct 15, 2012 12:39pm EDT
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By Raissa Kasolowsky

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - When horse and camel riders attacked protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square during last year's uprising, Egyptian filmmaker Yousry Nasrallah was struck by one of the most vivid examples of how Egypt's huge class divide is exploited by powerful elites.

Nasrallah's "After the Battle" tells the story of how one of the horsemen struggles to come to terms with his role in the aftermath of one of the most violent incidents of the 18-day-uprising which toppled former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Actor Bassem Samra portrays impoverished tour guide Mahmoud from Cairo's Pyramids area, who is coerced into taking part in the brutal attack on crowds of anti-government demonstrators packed into Cairo's streets that has since become known as "The Battle of the Camel".

He is badly beaten by protesters and in the months afterwards he and his family are taunted and ridiculed for allowing himself to be duped into taking part in an attack that is widely thought to have been instigated by the agents of Mubarak's state apparatus.

Nasrallah, who was born in Egypt in 1952 and whose other works include the 2009 film "Sheherazade, Tell me a Story" and "The City" which won the special jury prize in Locarno in 1999, said the men who took part, mostly tour guides from the Pyramids area, were easy targets for those who wanted to exploit them.

"They were extremely worried about their livelihood. Revolution means no more tourists, it means famine. So they were easily manipulated in that sense and pushed into battles that were not theirs," Nasrallah told Reuters.

"Suddenly the counter-revolution was personified by these people. And of course it's a pretty image, a super production, it looks like cowboys and indians, it looks mediaeval," he said in the interview on the sidelines of the festival.

But Mahmoud's lusty encounter with the wealthy and educated Reem reveals the enormous gulf separating the social classes in the Arab world's most populous country. Reem, a glamorous woman born to Egypt's social elite, is at once fascinated by Mahmoud and filled with pity for him.   Continued...