When I first met Egyptian-born Akmal Saleh in 1990 he called himself Peter Saleh — because he thought it would be easier for people to pronounce.
We were both young comedians learning the ropes then.
Looking back, I would never have dreamt that 23 years later Peter, now proudly calling himself Akmal, would produce an extraordinary expose of the rise and fall of a brutal dictator at the hands of the Egyptian masses.
The third international screening of the documentary Pharoah vs The Egyptians was held at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres on Saturday during the 4th annual Indie Gems Film Festival.
“I had no intention of being impartial,’’ Saleh said after the screening.
‘‘[Egyptian president Hosni] Mubarak had told his story for 30 years; it was my intention right from the beginning to tell the story of the people.”
The result is an emotive history lesson of the unprecedented waves of mass struggle between January 25, 2011, when protesters first came out onto the streets, and February 11, 2011, when Mubarak stepped down.
Using a dizzying pastiche of still frames, live footage and interviews with activists, the documentary painstakingly chronicles how people from one of the oldest civilizations on earth entered the scene of modern revolutionary history using social media as their only weapon.
In it, activists explain how the act of texting and Facebooking — initially mocked by the authorities as “children playing” — rallied Egyptians of all social layers to risk their lives against the brutal regime.
“I had some ideas on how to make it funny, some sketches worked out, but after listening to children talking about torture and death I realised that being funny would be inappropriate,’’ Saleh said.
When asked if he would do another documentary, he said: “If there was something like the Egyptian revolution I felt strongly enough about... maybe. I’d like to do a comedy movie someday though. Isn’t that what all comedians want to do?”