One thing I became acutely aware of during my last Yemen visit, was the really odd workings done by the global media. Most of what comes out of Yemen, still today, is just so incredibly over dramatised and in many cases, just untrue. And, unfortunately, this is also the case as regards to the documentaries coming out of this thrilling, but very misunderstood country. It makes me sad.
Yesterday I watched a documentary on the best Scandinavian Channel, SVT, by a British documentary maker and journalist Sean McAllister called The Reluctant Revolutionary. Most of it was a disappointment, since very few docs come out of this country, and if they do, its like this one. Drama, war, death and bitterness. First of all, even if I understand he might have been pushed to say this to sell the film, he states he is the only foreign journalist in Yemen during the troubles. Which of course is a blatant lie. There where, and still is, plenty of them who stayed there all the time during the worst commotion from February to December 2011. Many Arab journalists, quite a few Anglo-Saxons and my very good friend, Tanya Holm, a Swedish premier journalist, was there all the time. And this is very typical for Western journalists to claim uniqueness. As it is within exploration. The British are unfortunately famed for claiming firsts that isn´t true at all. Well, most Swedes as well…
Anyway, I am working on my documentary about Yemen and it will be a very positive one, since that is the case with Yemen. It is a very positive experience and it is a country far more than the isolated city and capital of Sanaa. I don´t really like to say anything negative about anyone in my own line of work, but it is a sad fact the image of Yemen, as a war torn, deadly, kat chewing country continues after having seen that film.
The documentary is kind of narrated through Qais, a well known tourist guide and hotel owner from the Old City who belong, no matter how you see it, to the privilaged ones in Yemen. A lot of emphasis is put on his sufferings, but everyone during a situation like this one, is suffering. And he still has his cars, his office, his hotel and his kat. He is just not convincing enough. It would have been nice to get to know more Yemenis than Qais. Suddenly he becomes a spokesperson for all Yemenis who wants a change and a better future.
Footage is shaky. I can understand McAllister was scared, so was I, really scared to film, but this shaky….and not once is there a different perspective from the other side, in this case the government side. It is all anti Saleh, and this isn´t the case, it is half-half still, and one gets the feeling the Ali Mohsen is a great human in comparison. Which isn´t true. They´re all the same, these 2 half brothers.
That said, if he had only concentrated on the uprising, not letting Qais “narrate”, it would have been a good doc. Once he got into the drama of the March shootings, I felt sick. That is a good sign of good work from the film maker and his editor. Well, according to his homepage at http://www.seanmcallister.com/ , he has done the editing as well. I guess he just didn´t have enough material. He didn´t bother to get to know Yemen enough. And that was my feeling. This guy just doesn´t have a clue what Yemen is made up off. And, he set the bar immediately being stating he was the only foreign journalist in Sanaa…..by doing that, you can only loose.
I am editing on my pilot together with Ulrika Rang, a really good editor, and I feel very happy of the images I have seen. But I am far off from a ready film. One which will give a very positive perspective of Yemen, but more important, a true picture of normality. I hope! See how it goes. It is a really big worry I have that I won´t be able to make this country and its great people justice. It is so well deserved!