Children of the Revolution BBC2 was interesting.
The three protagonists were young and camera friendly. Gigi, Ahmed and the Salafist were presented as young revolutionaries, striving for democracy, each in their own way.
Was it another stuck-in-a-rut documentary that amounts to the creation of more ‘here today gone tomorrow’ celebrities and little else? Normally the viewer is required to project a fantasy of their own onto some vacuous telegenic character, but the heroes and heroine featured here did not lack personality. There was bias, inevitably, but it was subtle, and the whole thing was thought provoking.
Gigi was already a well-known personality. During the ecstatic phase of the Tahrir Square uprising the Western media loved her. As the news unfolded she was pitted against Middle East specialists of stature, night after night, as a talking head. Part reporter, part political pundit, her opinions were credited with wisdom and maturity with what turns out to be a somewhat unrealistic optimism and overestimation. Subsequent events in Cairo forced this film to be more nuanced than expected.
“she was presented as well meaning but driven simply by naive youthful enthusiasm” says one commenter on the TV blog, when he felt she was really “a prominent member of the Revolutionary Socialists organisation in Egypt.”
Ahmed was originally motivated by frustration at being unable to find a job. Corruption kept him in an underprivileged position, and he wanted change.
The Salafist, whose religion, along with the Muslim Brotherhood, was illegal during Mubarak’s regime, was raring to go. Politics was his game and Sharia was his aim.
Gigi was more of a mystery. We were never quite told what her American education entailed, and how she came to be a revolutionary socialist. Was it youthful rebellion against the businessman dad she was prepared to dump for her politics? Was it a Vanessa Redgrave type self-hating hypocrisy? Was it altruistic idealism? Or maybe a quest for celebrity status?
Whatever it was, she couldn’t help appearing a tad deflated when it all went pear-shaped. Not to worry, off on hols, and a jokey text message: “Are you going to break the siege in Gaza?”
“No, I’m off to the beach” came the reply with a sheepish look to camera.
Frolicking in the sea, someone brought up the vexed question of bikinis. “They’ll never stop us wearing them in the new Egypt,” they agreed, as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists were celebrating their overwhelming triumph in Egypt’s glorious democratic elections.