'Goodbye Mubarak'--The Road to Revolution

By Joseph Sills
Photo Courtesy of Icarus Films

Goodbye Mubarak
Directed by Katia Jarjoura
Icarus Films, 2011,  72 min

Though "Goodbye Mubarak" begins with a shot of Cairo’s Tahrir Square full of protest, director and writer Katia Jarjoura focuses on rising political tensions three months before the Egyptian revolution.

Jarjoura explores the efforts of activists and politicians leading up to the December 2010 elections, using their words and stories to narrate the growing frustration among Egyptians in several key sectors of society. The film first follows Mahitab el Gilani and Gamila Ismail, from the April 6th Youth Movement and Doustour Party, as they canvas the streets for the upcoming election, emphasizing voting as a means to fight corruption. Then Jarjoura interviews Ayman Nour, the jailed leader of El Ghad party, who dared to run against Mubarak in 2005. His interview succinctly presents opposition opinion toward the regime, leveling accusations of dirty tactics, corruption, and sham democracy.

The film then inspects the regime by following Abou Elainein, a wealthy businessman turned politician who epitomizes the relationship between the regime and elite business. His interview runs differently than Nour’s; he boasts of progress and economic development. However, the camera takes viewers to Mahalla, a working class city where many tell of their hardship in slums, unfair wages, and suffering at the hands of regime nepotism. Through unscripted discussions and interviews, Jarjoura captures the frustration of four decades in the rants of disgruntled workers.

After liberal and regime politics, the film examines religious opinion in Egypt, interviewing two Muslim Brotherhood candidates for parliament and a Coptic priest. The Muslim Brotherhood’s charities and clinics bring legitimacy to its cause, while Copts express their discomfort with Islamism and reluctance to oppose the regime.

The documentary climaxes with the outrage and protest that follow the rigged results of elections in December, confirming in many Egyptians’ minds the regime’s unwillingness to allow true democracy. They finally lose patience.

Jarjoura’s interviews of key figures and video footage that conveys conditions in Egypt are a refreshing approach to pre-revolutionary Egypt, though her conclusions match conventional wisdom. The fact that the footage was shot without the foreknowledge of the revolution, however, does not satisfy qualms that it was biased in its editing and presentation. Translations of conversations and interviews in Arabic are sometimes incomplete and run the risk of misrepresentation. Ultimately, however, Jarjoura covers the major factions in pre-revolutionary Egypt and identifies the sources of tension that boiled over in January, rendering it an effective and quite intriguing work.

This review appears in Al Jadid, Vol. 17, no. 64

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