Review: ‘Arab Spring’ blooms in ‘Words of Witness’

The concise documentary “Words of Witness” proves a vivid snapshot of the hectic, yet hopeful weeks in early 2011 following the end of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-dictatorship, the start of the military’s interim rule and the nation’s rocky road toward democracy.

Czech-Egyptian director Mai Iskander, who also produced and shot the film, tells this crucial story of modern revolution through the eyes of Heba Afify, a 22-year-old, newly hired journalist at the English edition of Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt’s chief independent newspaper.

To the endless consternation of her protective parents, the ambitious, articulate Afify bucks native female tradition (unlike her apolitical older sister who’s into recipes and marriage) as she confidently immerses herself into a series of precarious, post-Mubarak actions and protests in order to “get the story” and update her Twitter feed and Facebook page.

For the Record, 2 p.m. Aug. 27: A previous version of the caption for the image accompanying this article misidentified the movie “Words of Witness” as “Words of Wisdom.”


Iskander, whether shooting the public storming of Cairo’s State Security headquarters, a Tahrir Square sit-in or a Christian-Muslim unity rally, captures these potentially loaded events with hand-held, you-are-there vitality, while ably keeping young reporter Afify front and center.

Although the film closes with coverage of Egypt’s first free and fair presidential election earlier this year, the country clearly remains a place of great uncertainty.

What’s not in doubt, however, is Afify’s future as a groundbreaking journalist.

Gary Goldstein

“Words of Witness.” No MPAA rating; In Arabic and English with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes. At Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hollywood.