Interview: Fred Stanton (Director, ‘Uprising’) – Gotham Screen International Film Festival

UPRISING‘ is the inside story of the Egyptian revolution from the perspective of its principal leaders and organizers, including four Nobel Peace Prize nominees.

Their success in forcing the downfall of a brutal dictatorship has changed the face of the Middle East and provided hope for millions of oppressed people across the world. Above all, it is a story of profound hope, of courage rewarded, of a people who beat back a police state and threw off the shackles of decades of degradation and oppression.

We had a quick talk with the film’s director Fred Stanton in anticipation of its GOTHAM SCREEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Premier Friday, October 11 @ 7pm playing at New York City’s famed Quad Cinema.

How did your film ‘UPRISING’ find itself at the GOTHAM SCREEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL? Will you be attending personally?
I will be attending personally. We’re just beginning to show the film on the festival circuit. Uprising had a terrific world premiere at the Beirut International Film Festival last week, and we have a number of other festivals scheduled both here in the U.S. and abroad. The importance of the Middle East and the significance of the Arab spring have generated alot of interest in the film, and people have responded very positively to the human element of the story.

How long after the actual events in Egypt occurred did you begin development on the film?
My first trip to Egypt was a couple of months after the fall of Mubarak, so events were still very fresh and the situation still uncertain. People were very proud of what they’d done, and the euphoria of their success was very present, as was the realization that with the military in control, much work still remained to build a working democracy.

What were some of the main obstacles you encountered in developing the film?
I don’t speak a word of Arabic, had never been to Egypt, and had barely held a video camera before making this film, so there was no shortage of obstacles. On arrival at the airport on my first trip to Egypt all my equipment was impounded at customs. Fortunately, I found a terrific Cairo-based production crew, and with their help I was able to reach out to key figures behind the revolution and have them share their stories. I also found a great network of freelance journalists who had hair-raising footage from the front lines of the revolution that no one had seen before. I was very fortunate. Much of the process was like stone soup, where others who believed in the project appeared and contributed in a way I could never have imagined at the outset.

What is social media’s place in events such as the Egyptian uprising? Ultimately, does this kind of communication help or hurt the organization of events such as this?
Social media was very important. As many of the people I spoke with pointed out, revolutions have been with us hundreds of years before the internet, so the role of social media should be kept in perspective, but it was an accelerant. The uprising happened because millions of Egyptians found the courage to stand up to their government and demand that Mubarak step down, and proved they were willing to die for it. At the same time, social media provided a space for communication and coordination beyond the reach of security forces, and it provided the means to mobilize tens of millions of people almost overnight. The security forces had many of the activists under close surveillance, but were still completed overwhelmed by the scale of the protests.

Why do you have a vesting interest into this particular subject matter? What do you think can be learned from the events in Egypt on a domestic scale and an international one?
I believe that people everywhere deserve to be free. Those who live under a police state and face repression on a daily basis understand at a basic level the meaning of liberty. The Egyptian revolution is a reminder to us that what we have here is precious, and fragile, and dear. Hopefully it is an inspiration, and a lesson to those living under other dictatorships that regimes are not always as strong as they appear, and they can crumble surprisingly quickly when confronted with determined and organized resistance.

Purchase Tickets for ‘UPRISING’ – HERE

October 4 – 14, 2012
@ Quad Cinema & Tribeca Grand



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