The Reluctant Revolutionary

- UK / 2012 / English, Arabic / Color / Blu-ray / 70 min

Director, Photography: Sean McAllister
Editing: Johnny Burke
Producers: Sean McAllister, Elhum Shakerifar
Co-Producer: Rachel Lysaght
Source: A Tenfoot Films Production for BBC

The director travels to the Middle East to capture the “Arab Spring” with his camera. In Yemen he meets Kais, a tour guide whose business has been affected by anti-government protests. The camera approaches the stresses of Kais’s everyday life, following his strained relationship with his wife, who awaits the birth of their child. Kais is at first skeptical about the demonstrations, but after witnessing the casualties that resulted from his government opening fire on a group of protestors, his stance gradually begins to change.

-[Director’s Statement] The revolutions of the Arab Spring are not identical, each one is different.

My journey into the Arab Spring began straight from filming in Yamagata, Japan. It was a sudden transition from the culture of Japan to the Middle East, from sushi to hummus.

The world’s media attention had been focused on Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. Very little was heard about Yemen, where I had gone in 2011 because I’d been introduced to Kais, the character at the heart of this story.

It was inspiring to see the fearlessness of people taking to the streets and standing bravely in front of live bullets. It was amazing to feel the spirit of a people as they removed a corrupt dictator after 38 years of single-family rule. Despite the massacre that I filmed, the death toll in Yemen has thankfully been small compared to other revolutions of the Arab Spring.

Of course Yemen and the other Arab nations still face huge challenges on their road to democracy; but it is time for the people of these countries to realize their own dreams.

- Sean McAllister

Sean McAllister left school at 16. He worked in a variety of factories in the North of England before he picked up a camera and filmed his way into the National Film School. McAllister’s films portray, with characteristic intimacy and frankness, people from different parts of the world who are struggling to survive, but are survivors caught up in political and personal conflicts—trying to make sense of the world we live in. His films include Working for the Enemy (1997), The Minders (1998), Settlers (2000), The Liberace of Baghdad (2005), and Japan: A Story of Love and Hate (2009, Special Prize and Citizens’ Prize at YIDFF 2009).