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Revolutionary Junctures: Documenting the Yemeni Uprising on Film

[The Life March arrives in Change Square, Sana'a. Photo by Ammar Basha 2011] [The Life March arrives in Change Square, Sana'a. Photo by Ammar Basha 2011]

The two films presented here, “One day in the heart of the revolution ” and “Another day in the heart of the revolution,” provide snapshots of the Yemeni uprising in 2011. As a filmmaker, I wanted to show Yemenis who have taken to the streets, the ordinary citizens who fought for change against overwhelming odds. While Al-Jazeera and other international media outlets focused on the calculated remarks of politicians and political analysts, I sought to capture the voices of the revolutionaries, the hope, anger, frustration, and resolve that are the true power behind the Yemeni uprising. At the same time, these films endeavor to document not just people’s physical and emotional struggles and the violence of the regime, but the internal contradictions of the revolution that have materialized at crucial junctures in the past year.

The first film, shot on 12 March 2011, portrays the spirit and the energy of the youth at the beginning of the uprising, just one week before Al-Karama Friday, when fifty-seven protestors were killed by snipers. In a period of escalating regime violence, the protestors displayed a growing determination and solidarity, and their ranks swelled as many more people joined the uprising after these first attacks. The revolution at this time was still largely devoid of the interference of major institutional powers—the First Armored Division of Ali Muhsin had not yet rebelled and the Islah Party had not yet come to dominate Change Square.


The second video depicts the arrival of the Life March to Sana’a on 26 December 2011. The protest march numbered twenty thousand when it set off from the central highlands city of Taiz and gathered over two hundred thousand more as it traversed the two hundred fifty kilometers through the mountains to the capital. It was a powerful denunciation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative and revived the spirit of the revolution in the capital. The internal tensions and divisions of the revolution manifested themselves in the most violent form at this precise moment. There was a realignment of political alliances as the GCC Initiative, accepted by the major players of the regime and opposition in Sana’a, was largely rejected by the independent youth, most vocally from Taiz. The Life Marchers, who had been attacked by security forces along the way, found themselves barred from Change Square stage and subsequently assaulted by other revolutionary factions who sought to silence their dissent.

Today, one year after the first video was shot, Ali Abdullah Saleh has been ousted from power and succeeded by his former vice president in an uncontested election. People, however, continue to take to the streets and are still gathering in the squares. The Life March shook the formal opposition and, as one of the organizers Ryadh al-Same’e declared, breathed fresh life into the uprising: “This is a new revolution which caused the silent group in Yemen to come out. We saw many people coming out from their homes and joined the Life March.” There are still strong efforts by national and international players to send them home, but for many, the revolution has just started. 


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