Amidst masses of anxious men stands a woman in a grey and pink headscarf, armed with a to-do-list doubling as a journalist’s notepad, and a pink pen. This woman is 22-year-old Heba Afify and she is determined to document the voice of her people.
Afify is the charming protagonist of a documentary titled “Words of Witness.” Part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, the 68-minute film by filmmaker Mai Iskander follows Heba Afify as she captures the stories of citizens during the Egyptian Revolution for Al-Masry Al-Youm, a daily independent newspaper.
What seemed at its conception to have been a documentary about the revolution and its turmoil, turned out to be a telling story about a woman and perhaps about women.
After interviewing half a dozen women journalists in Egypt, and moved by Heba Afify’s “commitment to her work and her courage,” Mai Iskander chose to follow Afify as she took to the streets, documenting the thoughts and emotions of Egyptian citizens during the revolution, after the ousting of then dictator Hosni Mubarak, and even up to the recent elections.
The final product, premiering in New York just a week after learning the outcome of Egypt’s first presidential election post-revolution, gives a rare look at the emotional roll coaster that the people of Egypt went through during the revolution, from the excitement at its onset to the feelings of disillusionment and skepticism towards the previously revered army.
My take-away, however, was a broader glimpse of the challenges young women journalists face, and specifically the challenges Muslim women journalists, who are bound by societal, cultural, and familial norms, face as they confront these sorts of coming-of-age moments. [Read more...]