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concordia 27/10/2015 - 10:00AM

Lillian Boctor Introduces ART WAR screening at CP Concordia

ART WAR by Marco Wilms was shown on Monday, October 26, 2015 as part of Cinema Politica's co-presentation with HOWL!. ART WAR features Ganzeer, Hamed Abdel-Samad, Ramy Essam, Bosaina, Alaa Awad, Ammar Abo Bakr and Mohammed Khaled, with tracks by Revolution Records, Ramy Essam, Wetrobots + Bosaina, and City Band. Independent journalist and community organizer Lillian Boctor joined us for the screening and delivered an evocative intro to the film. Here is the complete transcript of her presentation:

I exist. My voice will not be silenced. Freedom. Liberation. Celebration and Remembrance. The TRUTH. Courage. Death and Rebirth. The Individual and the Collective. Metamorphosis and Transformation. Resistance in the face of extreme repression. Reclaiming public space. These are some of the themes that ART WAR deals with and that the artists we have the honor to spend time with over the next hour and a half are inspired by and grapple with. 

ART WAR illustrates the intrinsic connections between artistic expression in Ancient Egyptian times and throughout Egyptian history to the current moments of revolutionary upheaval that Egyptians have been living through.  Artists continue these traditions of wall art and music with the explosion of street art and graffiti and song and dance that took over Egypt after the 2011 uprisings, ending 30 years of the oppressive Mubarak regime. Young revolutionaries and artists used walls as the revolution’s newspaper, as a way to convey the truth in an upside-down world where the media is the mouthpiece of the regime.

Four years after the uprisings that toppled Mubarak, through the repressive and murderous military transition government, to the Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s disastrous attempt to get in bed with the military and use their power to forward their own political project, to the current Sisi military regime which is jailing and killing those who dare speak against them, artists continue to push forward the revolutions demands of bread, freedom and social justice. They continue to confront whichever dictator may be in power at the moment, like a snake with many heads. 

And these dictators and the military regime fear the artists. They fear their paint and spray cans, they fear the street artists’ graffiti and their voices speaking truth to power. The military regime fears the depiction of the violence and terror they have unleashed upon the Egyptian people. The dictators attempt to snuff out the truth by painting over walls, jailing and killing and torturing artists and passing laws that criminalize artistic expression construed in any way as speaking against the dictators and brutality of the regime. In one such attempt to silence the voice of the revolution, earlier this year Egyptian customs confiscated 400 copies of Walls of Freedom, which features Egyptian street art, for “instigating revolt.”

The oppressive forces are right to be scared. Not because the artists are terrorists, as the regime depicts them. But because this art moves people, instills pride, unmasks the truth, inspires discussion and analysis, and yes, instigates revolt, as one of the only sources of truth left in Egypt.

The role of women artists and political women collectives is central to the direct challenge of the regime, over the last four years, and throughout the decades leading up to this current revolution, even though we do not hear nearly enough from women’s voices in this male dominated film. 

The use of art to confront social issues has become endemic in Egyptian society, as illustrated with the recent series of comics installed in Cairo metros tackling the sexual harassment women face in Egypt.

As the narrator of the film Hamed Abdel Samad describes, when talking about the 2011 uprisings, “Revolutions are history’s engines. Whether revolutions fail or succeed they always bring long-term change. What happened this year was just the opening scene of a long drama.”

This long drama was set into motion decades ago, through student movements, massive worker strikes in Mahalla, and leftist organizing; through resistance to Israel’s apartheid policies in Palestine and Egypt’s complicity, and through alternatives put forth to the neo-liberal policies strangling the life out of millions of poor Egyptians; through recognizing the military’s destructive role and control over the country’s economy and opposition to the ongoing imperialist imposition on Egypt’s development by the US and other Western powers. This long drama plays on, as Egyptians continue to fight for freedom and liberation, and as Egyptian artists continue to spray paint, draw, stencil, sing and dance the truth, the beauty, and the pain and loss of the ongoing Revolution.

As the iconic Egyptian sun boat and Noah’s ark that features in the film, which are not fixed to the places where they are built, these artists’ work are not fixed to the walls on which they are spray painted, but rather are seared into the Egyptian collective imagination, taking Egyptians from the shores of deadly corruption and brutal repression to shores of new life, bringing justice and freedom for all Egyptians.


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