Karama Has No Walls

Karama Has No Walls


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

They call it 'Change Square' now, formerly the University Square in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a. Students set up camp, said that they would not move until President Ali Abdullah Saleh relinquished power. A tent city formed, with vendors, footballers, chess-players, dancers, singers - in a country with a population of 25 million and more than 62 million guns, no weapons - cameras, however - cameras there were.

A wall had been built - a crude one, breeze blocks and railings, daubed with pitch and topped with broken bottles. It cut the square from the neighbourhood, formed a quiet spot where men gathered in prayer. As they did on the 18th of March, the Friday of Dignity - Karama. Also in the square were two cameramen, Nasr and Khaled, and it's their footage that grounds the film in history. However, it's the interviews that give the film its strength. We hear from those on the ground that day, including both Nasr and Khaled, and from the families whose loved ones were caught up in events and their aftermath.

When those occupying the square spot men gathering near the remaining entrances with "new machine-guns", and at that wall a hand is seeing dousing it with fuel, it's clear that trouble is brewing. The extent of it, however, is shocking, and Sara Ishaq's film is unflinching. Praised at Glasgow's 2013 Film Festival and receiving a special mention in the Jury Award for its "powerful and human storytelling", Karama Has No Walls is a stark document of a defining incident of the 'Arab spring'.

Using occasional intertitles of plain white text on a black background, cutting between new images of the square and its interviews and Nasr and Khaled's footage, even moments of Al-Jazeera's coverage of people being rushed for medical treatment, the film is respectful of its participants and the dead. It's hard to convey the visceral quality of the film, the eyes of the panicked and the blood of the fallen, the rush and press of the crowd as events unfold. For all its power it could, perhaps, do with more context, but its real triumph is in unpicking the forces of history and finding personal stories within. Tragic, undoubtedly, but worth witnessing.

Reviewed on: 11 Feb 2013
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A look inside the 2011 Yemeni uprising.

Director: Sara Ishaq

Starring: Saleem Al-Harazi, Anwar Al-Muati

Year: 2012

Runtime: 26 minutes

Country: United Arab Emirates, UK, Yemen


Glasgow 2013

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