The Arab Spring in Egypt: From a dictator to free elections, back to a dictatorship. One comedy show united the country and tested the limits of free press. This is the story of Bassem Youssef, a cardiologist turned comedian, the Jon Stewart of Egypt, and his show "The Show".Written by
President Abdelfattah Al-Sisi:
I'm talking about a collapsing country. People must understand that, and stand by us with it. Whoever visualizes it differently wants to sabotage Egypt.
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The opening credits include a jab at the former Egyptian dictator: "directed by HOSNI MUBARAK" "produced by HOSNI MUBARAK" "edited by HOSNI MUBARAK" "best boy HOSNI MUBARAK" "even better boy HOSNI MUBARAK" See more »
Informative movie showing how the climate for satire in Egypt changed over the years. Though showing hope at first, the final takeaway message is depressing
Saw this at the Leiden International Film Festival 2016 (LIFF, website: leidenfilmfestival.nl/en), where it was part of a program Humor in Islamic Countries, in addition to The Lizard (Kamal Tabrizi, 2004) shown earlier that day. Luckily, there was an introductory speech that explained some aspects we would easily have overlooked otherwise, some of the advantages of a festival above a "normal" screening in a cinema around the corner.
A few weeks earlier, before and after the screening of Clash (original title: Eshtebak) at the Film Fest Ghent 2016, we learned from director Mohamed Diab that humor is a normal vehicle for Egyptians to escape from bitter circumstances, even at funerals or other sad moments. Knowing that, both Clash and Tickling Giants leave us with the impression that satire is Egyptian history for now. Humor may still serve its purpose in-house, but it cannot be used anymore against authorities or governmental institutions.
Back to Tickling Giants: Spanning several years, it gave a good impression how the political climate in Egypt changed, and how little elbowing room there was eventually left for satire or critical remarks against authority. Opponents of Youssef's talk show argued that it was a feeble time for upcoming democracy in Egypt, that trust in authority was better not disturbed. In other words, later there will come more room for free speech. We cannot have it now, certainly not at this very moment with a fresh democracy under construction.
The TV network broke under the pressure and even sued the presenter (cannot imagine why, but they said he broke his contract), though the president stated on TV that this premature ending was not his doing. Who are we to believe?? This is certainly the morale of this movie, even if we refuse to see conspiracies all around. We know of countries where you can be locked away nowadays as a journalist because of doing what you are paid to do. It is something we previously thought was typical for underdeveloped third-world countries. That is not true anymore.
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