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.

“Sean’s camera is like a gun, getting him into and out of trouble and danger. Here he latches on to a Yemeni tour guide, Kais, whose business is collapsing under the protests of the Arab Spring. He takes him into the centre of Sana’a where the pro and anti president camps meet and where, reluctantly, Kais changes his position. McAllister goes into danger in our name, on our behalf.” – © Colin Young, Founding Director of the (UK) National Film and Television School

See a selection of reviews for The Reluctant Revolutionary

The Reluctant Revolutionary. BBC, IFB (2012)

Broadcast Premiere – UK, BBC Four, Storyville, March 19, 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.

Awards and Nominations

EBS International Documentary Festival, Seoul, South Korea 2012 – Audience Award, Batumi International Art-House Film Festival (BIAFF), Batumi, Georgia 2012 – Special Jury Prize.

The Reluctant Revolutionary on IMDb