The Unresolved Egyptian Revolution: How Filmmaker Mustafa Eck Needs Your Help To Tell The Untold Story

29 Dec 2011 in Interviews

Let’s set the stage.

On February 12, 2011, Hosni Mubarak resigned as President of Egypt. Just one month prior, on January 17th, a man lit himself on fire in front of Egypt’s parliament building in downtown Cairo – propelling the country’s people on a mission to overthrow Mubarak and his regime. Beginning on January 25th, the entire nation of Egypt rose up against their tyrant of a leader and demanded their independence… protesting around the clock for weeks.

The Egyptian revolution captivated the whole world. In some people’s eyes, Mubarak’s resignation represented the end of the revolution. But, while February 12th was a day to rejoice in Tahrir Square, it was only the beginning of Egypt’s renaissance. In this post, I interview Mustafa Eck about his Kickstarter project (*NOTE: Please pledge your support!) and take a quick, inside look at the state of the revolution in Egypt today.

Here’s the preamble: Egypt’s journey to independence the past 10 months has been rocky and inundated with misunderstanding – even within the country. Presently, it is still largely in disarray. The outside world has so many misconceptions about the Middle East. What, actually, is becoming of Egypt after Mubarak’s downfall? What is the state of the revolution? Enter Mustaka Eck.

MEET MUSTAFA ECK, THE EGYPTIAN-AMERICAN FILMMAKER

Mustafa is on a mission of his own, a mission to explain his own bi-cultural heritage (he was born in the U.S. and raised between Egypt, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia) while tackling the current state of the still unresolved Egyptian Revolution. How? By making a documentary called “The I Don’t Understand Movie“, which he has created a project for on Kickstarter.

His background is both intriguing and impressive. Currently, he is a student in the Film & Television Production program at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Previously, he studied at the Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Filmmaking. His exciting track record carries with it a logical narrative: he explored misconceptions surrounding the Middle East while at the Zaki Gordon Institute. His first short documentary, titled Ana Mish Fahim, was shown in festivals worldwide and became a finalist for the prestigious Student Academy Award. In fact, he even scored a rare interview with Gihan Sadat, the widow of Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat.

His Kickstarter project is a compelling progression of what he is most passionate about.

THE UNDERDOG: SIX DAYS TO RAISE $7,000 ON KICKSTARTER

Aided by one of  my closest friends, Nour Ahmadein (whom I became tight with while we both studied at the Washington Semester Program at American University in D.C. last fall, 2010), Mustafa is currently in Egypt doing everything he can to bring his documentary to life. As of this morning, Mustafa had a total of 56 backers and had raised $2,317 of the $7,000 he needs to make his vision for “The I Don’t Understand Movie” a reality.

As MSNBC explained last night, Kickstarter works by enabling the creators of each project to collect their ‘crowd investment’ from the backers only if they raise enough money to meet the goal they set at the outset of the project. Additionally, the backers are given several different levels of ‘rewards’ depending on how much they pledge.

Mustafa Eck wants to shake things up. Having been in and out of Egypt since the beginning of the revolution, he wants to tell the whole story. He was in Cairo just days before the revolution began, directing an Arabic hip-hop music video in the heart of Tahrir Square (where the protests have taken place all year long).

THE INTERVIEW

1) Who are you? What is inspiring you to go out and make this documentary happen?

I am half American and half Egyptian.  This is a personal film I’m creating for cathartic reasons, in the pursuit of self discovery.  In short, growing up with parents from two different cultures can be very confusing. With this documentary I hope to clear up many issues for myself, but also for my two cultures at large.

2) It’s been talked about a lot, but in your opinion how would you describe the role that the social web (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) played in the Egyptian revolution?

As far as the Egyptian revolution is concerned, it could not have happened without the guidance (and guise) of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Prior to January 25th, gathering in a public space to voice one’s grievances was highly dangerous – and rarely attempted.  However, on the Internet, Egyptians were able to more safely pre-organize and successfully launch protests which would eventually culminate in the toppling of Mubarak’s regime.

3) I know this is a broad question, but what is it like in Egypt right now?

I just landed in Egypt today. Everything seems as it was when I left last year.  But then on the way home, I saw a banner for a presidential candidate – something I never thought I’d see.  Also, I’m learning that in my neighborhood, there have been some instances of heightened violence due to a lack of police presence. [*NOTE: Below is an image from the heart of Tahrir Square taken by Nour last week:]

EGYPT TODAY: AN UPDATE FROM MUSTAFA AND NOUR IN CAIRO

In an update he posted from Egypt on December 18th, Mustafa wrote:

“Already in my short time here in Cairo, I’ve seen the difference between what the state media is reporting and what is happening on the ground in Tahrir as we speak.  Many Egyptians believe that the people that are in Tahrir Square now are agitators who are being paid by Hosni Mubarak and his cronies to disrupt order.

I went down to Tahrir last night and was in the crowd as troops were firing live rounds at the front lines.  The government is also claiming that they are showing great restraint, even though ten Egyptians have reportedly been killed in the recent protests and more than 450 have been hospitalized.

The bottom line is that genuine information, even within Egypt itself, is hard to come by.”

Nour has been tweeting outspoken updates from Cairo of his country’s unresolved revolution:

 

 

 

 

 

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I hope you enjoyed Mustafa’s story. If you believe in his cause, please pledge what you can on Kickstarter to support his fledgling documentary. Every dollar helps, and Nour and Mustafa are the real deal. I vouch 100% for both of them. If you want to get in touch with Mustafa, his email address is: eck@usc.edu. You can also Tweet him: @MustafaEck. Nour’s email address is: nourahmadein@gmail.com. You can also tweet Nour here: @EntrepreNour.

Thank you for reading and for supporting their cause and the continuing revolution in Egypt. Let’s help them make this documentary a REALITY (to pledge, click: here)!

  • http://doriandargan.com/ Dorian Dargan

    John you’re a boss for covering this. Best of luck to Mustafa!

  • ahmaze

    This was beautiful! Especially the 

    “The I Don’t Understand Movie — أنا مش فاهم”

    Video on Kickstarter. Listening to his story and goals reminded me of Moustapha  Akkad and his masterpiece movie “The Message” (http://goo.gl/n3EhQ). 

    Citing Wikipedia referencing an interview with Akkad in 1976, Akkad says

    “I did the film because it is a personal thing for me. Besides its production values as a film, it has its story, its intrigue, its drama. Beside all this I think there was something personal, being Muslim myself who lived in the west I felt that it was my obligation my duty to tell the truth about Islam… ”

    Akkad and Eck strike me as 2 parallels. Where Akkad focused on using film to tell the truth about Islam, Mustafa Eck is working on media coverage, representation, and politics among other things. I’m sure Akkad would have done the same thing today if he were alive today…

    ..And both their names are Mustafa/Moustapha (same name in Arabic), they both had funding issues (research the making of The Message), there are too many similarities in their stories.

    ..
    .
    Smh

  • ahmaze

    I also wanted to point out that, although many many middle easterners have the same feeling about western media coverage of the Mid east we don’t do anything to address it. We simply buy Arabic satellite, watch Aljazeera, or go online/call home and call it a day! 

    I think it’s great work that someone is actually looking put the spotlight on this issue. Fox News or CNN certainly won’t admit that they sometimes fear monger or exaggerate situations just to capture our attention..

  • http://www.johnexleyonline.com/ JohnExley

    BROrian Braaahrgan, glad you are on board with @MustafaEck:disqus ’s mission as well. HE is the boss, I only wish I could have blogged about this sooner. 

    Let’s both cross our fingers that his documentary pulls together the last minute funding it needs for this to happen. 

    Then we can get Mustafa to do some live broadcasting from Cairo on YouNow to update us on how the documentary is coming along, and naturally we can celebrate in NYC with him and Nour after it’s finished and released one day…. mannnn I can FEEL IT

  • http://www.johnexleyonline.com/ JohnExley

    Ahmad, thanks for the extensive comment man. I appreciate you diving in to the comments like this and continuing the conversation. I’m also sure Mustafa (and my boy Nour) will appreciate your enthusiastic support brotha. 

    It does seem as if Moustapha Akkad and Mustafa Eck share a lot of similarities… glad you are connecting the dots. I wonder if Eck has heard of/studied Akkad’s work before. 

    Let’s just hope Eck is successful in rallying together the funding to make this project happen. I want to see this documentary one day soon. The story needs to be told man. #LETSGETIT

  • http://www.johnexleyonline.com/ JohnExley

    Appreciate your follow-up comment too bro. Personally I can’t speak on buying Arabic satellite and watching Aljazeera, but I do agree with you wholeheartedly about how important it is that Mustafa shed light on this issue. 

    Judging on what I’ve read, what Nour is tweeting, and what Mustafa is saying to me in his emails and on his Kickstarter page, the media is not telling the whole story… AND the people in Egypt do not fully understand what is going on because Mubarak’s “croonies” are pulling masks over their eyes by hiring goons to act violently in Tahrir Square, etc. 

    There is so much confusion inside and outside of the country, and there is also so much confusion finding your “true identity” I think as a half Egyptian half American… and both of these subjects are things that Mustafa could really make an impact on the world with if he approaches them well and presents a sophisticated, compelling story. 

    MAN I hope they pull this off. Let’s get it! How can we get lots of people to pull in support in the form of dollars before their time runs up and they don’t raise the full $7,000? 

    Ahmad, def email Mustafa the thoughts you had that you were DM’ing me. Rally the troops man!