Revolutionary by accident

INTERVIEW. Omar Shargawi was trapped in an Egyptian revolution as he was preparing a film about street kids in Cairo. Out of it came instead the documentary "Half a Revolution", premiering at the hotspot for new Nordic shorts and documentaries at Nordisk Panorama.

On 25 January 2011 the revolt took off in Egypt. A major demonstration against Mubarak was to take place, inspired by the upheavals in Tunisia. So, together with his friend and co-director Karim El Hakim, Omar Shargawi went out on the streets.

"We just wanted to get some footage ... and suddenly we became part of it. The police started shooting against the demonstrators. As we gave first aid to somebody who was injured, we were arrested and beaten by the secret police who dragged us off to a military prison in the middle of the desert," the director says.

Shargawi and El Hakim were released only because they had western passport .

"It all happened very quickly. We started as spectators of a demonstration, and suddenly we were in the middle of a revolution. We saw more death and destruction during that time than we had experienced in our entire lives."

With their cameras Shargawi and El Hakim were able to document how revolutionary optimism was replaced by fear of the military's ruthless brutality. And according to Shargawi, the revolution in Egypt isn't over yet.

"Many are still detained or they just disappear. Although Mubarak has fallen, you'll still find the same people sitting in power."

A project changes direction

Shargawi was developing a documentary about street kids in Cairo, when events took off.

After some quick phone calls to film commissioner at the Danish Film Institute Dorte Høeg Brask, Shargawi and El Hakim were given the green light to take the project in a completely different direction.

"I told him that he should do what he thought was right in the situation. And the situation demanded that he stared somewhere else. There was something bigger at stake here. A few weeks later he came home with half a revolution on tape,"says Høeg Brask.

Swargawi and El Hakim's film, which depicts the violent upheavals from a very personal angle, is produced by Carsten Holst for Globus with support from the Danish Film Institute.

"Half a Revolution" is premiering at the Nordic shorts and documentary festival Nordisk Panorama taking place 23-28 September in Aarhus, Denmark.