|Heba Afify and others in Words of Witness.|
By Miranda Inganni
During 2011’s “Arab Spring,” filmmaker Mai Iskandar (Garbage Dreams) travelled to Egypt to witness firsthand what the country was experiencing. Upon meeting Heba Afify, a young journalist for Almasry Alyoum, the English version of Egypt’s leading independent publication, Iskandar found a voice to tell the story of the country’s remarkable upheaval. And so the documentary, Words of Witness, came to fruition.
Afify, as her mother frequently reminds her, is from a good family and a young woman. Having wanted to be a writer from a young age, 22-year-old Afify must endure her mother’s remarks that while she recognizes that her daughter is a journalist, she is first and foremost “still a girl.” Despite her mother’s overly-maternal concern, Afify’s intent is to tell the news and educate her fellow Egyptians of the changes as they happen. With the contemporary trappings available to most young adults, Afify texts, emails, posts and tweets the story of an uprising.
Using Afify’s cell phone footage along with the footage shot by Iskandar, Words of Witness is raw without being naïve. With a country in flux, on the edge of the unknown, Afify gives off a sense of hope and integrity. While she is indeed young, Afify takes risks to get to the point of the matter, while being mindful of her mother’s concern. (Interestingly, her father supports his daughter's actions and encourages her to break her mother’s rules.) She is not simply some dumb kid daring to face opposing government, civilian and military forces for the sake of adrenalin or fame, but rather an observer of adversity and revolution who awakens hope.
Words of Witness screens at the Los Angeles Film Festival: June 17, 2:40 p.m., Regal Cinemas; June 20, 7:40 p.m., Regal Cinemas.