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article imageReview: Two personal accounts of Egypt's revolutions screen at Hot Docs Special

By Michael Thomas     May 7, 2016 in Entertainment
The 2011 Egypt uprising that led to the removal of Hosni Mubarak was the spark of the Arab Spring. Five years later, two filmmakers shared their personal experiences in Egypt at Hot Docs.
Making a film about Egypt, no matter how personal, is in itself political. In Whose Country? and The Valley of Salt, which screened together at Hot Docs, filmmakers reflect on their own lives under Mubarak while dealing with different aspects of Egypt's political turmoil. Though their subject matter differs, both make the films highly personal — they openly wonder why things are the way they are and retell moments of their lives as though reading from a memoir.
Whose Country? is largely about the police's role in both uprising, largely because the director (who wishes to remain anonymous) strikes up a friendship with a police officer who quit the force. Understandably, many of those in power don't want to talk openly about their problems with the government, but the few officers he can get to talk are candid.
When it came to arrests during the 2011 uprising that overthrew Mubarak, according to officers, they were often arbitrary and led to violence and torture. It's no surprise, then, that when the filmmaker recorded some of the protests, he found some plainclothes policemen protesting along with them.
When Mohamed Morsi is elected president, the film doesn't shy away from being pessimistic about his tenure right off the bat. Sure enough, the army deposes him less than a year later, and the filmmaker's friendship with the disillusioned officer changes altogether. Uncertainty reigns.
Still from  The Valley of Salt
Still from 'The Valley of Salt'
Hot Docs
Meanwhile, The Valley of Salt is part family drama and largely about the persecution of Christians in post-Mubarak Egypt. Christophe grew up in Cairo, the child of an Egyptian father and a Swiss mother. Christianity was tolerated "as long as you kept your head down," but tensions have risen considerably and put Christophe's father — a man who helps out fellow Christians in Egypt — in danger.
It's that danger, in the form of text-message threats from unknown Muslims, that prompts Christophe to leave Switzerland and visit his parents in Egypt. Christophe has his camera on almost the whole time he's there, catching the anxiety of his mother and the determination of his father not to give into fear. The unknown men threaten to kill Christophe's father, demanding large sums of money in exchange for his life.
As the family goes back and forth on what to do, the tension in the film increases, reaching a climax as they await a phone call from the men. Christophe worries about his family's safety and Egypt's future, and it ends on an ambiguous note, but it's a poignant chronicle of the country's religious problems.
See Digital Journal's previous Hot Docs 2016 film coverage here.
More about whose country, the valley of salt, Egypt, christophe m saber
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