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Watch The Reluctant Revolutionary on Vimeo ($4.99 US).

Sean McAllister, The Reluctant Revolutionary (2012)

"McAllister has achieved something incredible here. The Reluctant Revolutionary is a stunningly humane portrait that shows vividly what's at stake before leaving it bloody on the Formica floor of a battered concrete building." [Cole Abaius, Film School Rejects]

An intimate portrait of Yemen as the revolution unfolds, told through the eyes of tour guide leader Kais, an intelligent commentator on the changing times in Yemen, offering poignant moments of reflection, loss, anger and hope on the unknown road to revolution. Filmed over the course of the past year we see Kais's journey from pro-President to reluctant revolutionary, joining angry protesters in the increasingly bloody streets of Sana'a.

Kais is a 35 year-old tour guide from Sana's, the Yemeni capital, struggling to make ends meet and working in his father's travel agency. He is philosophical, articulate and reflective but as the story begins he is cynical about the undercurrents of dissent in his country and supposrtive of the President.

When one of his tours has to be cut short due to the instability and increased danger for tourists, Kais returns to Sana'a to find 2 permanent camps in the city centre: one for the President and one against. Kais is adamant that protests wont solve anything, that the President is doing his best and that violence will never be used to quash the protests. At first, he refuses to enter the anti-president camp, but is convinced by sean to have a look one night. Over a number of visits we see Kais change, "I never imagined seeing rival tribes coming and sitting here in peace, without their Kalashnikovs" he declares.

As the protest camp grows from 'Change Square' to take over the surrounding streets we see that like Kais, many other people are also being converted to the movement. Kais embraces the revolution as each Friday gets bigger, and bloodier. Through his eyes, we see the events unfolding in the peace camps - the reactions to killings, defections, the President's failure to sign a peace deal - and understand what the revolution means to ordinary Yemenis. Sean shows us a revolution in the making through the eyes of ordinary Yemeni citizens, and paints a subtle picture that shows us the very root of people's discontent and their demands from the government.

Meanwhile, foreign journalists are being tracked down and sent out of the country, and soon Sean is the only remaining foreigner in his hotel.

Reviews: The Reluctant Revolutionary

Film poster

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See all the selected reviews for The Reluctant Revolutionary

© Rosemarie Hugill, Doc Geeks:

"Even with its shortcomings The Reluctant Revolutionary is a very important and moving documentation of the Arab Spring. The extreme bravery not only shown by McAllister and Kais, but by every Yemini protesters is extremely inspirational and admirable. The film is an ode to investigative journalism and the inspirational will-power of the Yemini people who don't take no for an answer." - http://docgeeks.com/2012/07/27/the-reluctant-revolutionary/

© Berliner Zeitung:

"'The Reluctant Revolutionary' is investigative journalism of the most intense kind, a document of the personal involvement in history. Whatever one may hear about the role of social networks for the organization and impact of such revolutions, they only become real in the old-fashioned but fearlessly engaged way in which Sean McAllister brings them to the big screen."

Comment Middle East: The greatest achievement of this documentary is one which has largely alluded the cameras of the mainstream media, namely managing to truly capture the Arab Spring at the level of the ordinary individual... continue

The Scotsman: McAllister, who specialises in documentaries exploring the wider picture through the experiences of individuals, does an excellent job of chronicling the street-level energy of the Arab Spring, as well as the atrocities endured by people brave enough to challenge their oppressors. One chaotic scene in an overburdened hospital strewn with bodies is almost unbearable. Nevertheless, McAllister's often shocking film is vital in exposing the brutal realities of this historic uprising. But what price freedom? continue

Cole Abaius, Film School Rejects: McAllister has achieved something incredible here. The Reluctant Revolutionary is a stunningly humane portrait that shows vividly what's at stake before leaving it bloody on the Formica floor of a battered concrete building. continue

Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter: A breathless pace, a sense of black humor and a great central character make The Reluctant Revolutionary one of the most immediate and accessible descriptions of the Arab Spring yet to emerge. The place is Yemen and British documaker Sean McAllister (Liberace of Baghdad, Working for the Enemy) has the good fortune and sense of timing to be inside the country when the main events in Change Square happen, events that would lead eight months later to the resignation of president Ali Abdullah Saleh, dictator for 33 years. continue

Mark Cosgrove, The Huffington Post: Film-maker McAllister is either a fool or brave or possibly both because he is obviously the only foreigner around, wondering in a volatile environment with secret police mingling amongst the crowds of protesters. What he captures is extraordinary with access conventional media flinch from. When the state troops shoot into the crowds the camera follows Kais into the makeshift hospitals. The scenes are devastating. But the mood of change and resilience is evident as it is in the charming reluctant revolutionary Kais. continue

Film information

The Reluctant Revolutionary, BBC, IFB (2012)

1st broadcast - BBC Four, Storyville, Monday 19 March, 2012

Director : Sean McAllister, Editor Johnny Burke, Online Editor Andrew Mitchell, Composer Denis Clohessy, Dubbing Mixer Bob Jackson, Produced by Sean McAllister, Elhum Shakerifar, Co-Producer Rachel Lysaght, Executive Producer for BBC Storyville Nick Fraser, Production Executive for Bord Scannán na hÉireann / the Irish Film Board Alan Maher.

A Tenfoot Films Production for the BBC, with the participation of Bord Scannán na hÉireann / the Irish Film Board.

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