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Filming the Arab Spring

Blog
20 December 2011

Four top freelance cameramen and women reflect on how they covered 2011’s most seminal event - the Arab Spring. All four were winners or finalists in this year’s Rory Peck Awards (www.rorypecktrust.org)

Elizabeth Jones
I covered the first 10 days of the Egyptian protests from inside the HQ of the people who planned it – the April 6th Movement. I knew the news crews would be in Tahrir Square and I wanted a different take on the story. My biggest challenge was sleep deprivation, I was working alone with events happening 24 hours so I slept on the office floor with just a few blankets. I shot this story on a Z1. Al Jazeera wanted to air the film quickly (it was aired a few days after my return) so I was regularly sending tape rushes back to a crash edit in London. The pressure to be on top of what’s happening is constant.

Ahmed Bahaddou
I was in Libya from April until the end of the conflict.  Early on I met a rebel commando in the West who invited me on their mission to re-capture the village of Al Majabira so I travelled with them to the frontline on foot.  It was hard going physically, often walking 10 hours a day carrying 40 kilos of equipment. I shoot on a Panasonic 615 DVC Pro 25, which isn’t small, light or tapeless.  I was sending material daily to Associated Press, ingesting, editing and filing direct from the frontline via a Bgan satellite transmitter and receiver.  I’ve been doing this for 20 years and the pressure to turn things around quickly has increased dramatically.

Jason Parkinson
I was in Cairo during the first week of revolution in Egypt working alongside photographer Jess Hurd.  Within an hour of shooting on the first day – January 28th – we witnessed police using live shotgun rounds, firing blindly into clouds of tear gas. Because of this we were captured by the secret police. A senior officer took our camera memory cards then told us to leave, but we had switched the cards and walked away with cuts, bruises, a badly smashed knee, plus all our footage and stills.  On top of the day to day stuff, we also had the problem of the government closing down the internet and phones, but fortunately the Intercontinental hotel internet was running.

Abdallah Omeish
The first voice to broadcast from Libya last February was Mohammed Nabbous, a Benghazi citizen turned journalist who was broadcasting via Livestream.  I decided to go to Libya to film Mohammed and struggle to create the first independent Libyan satellite channel. We formed a close friendship as he underwent attacks from Gaddafi’s army. It was a never-ending roller coaster of highs and lows. On March 19th I got a phone call telling me that Mo had been shot and killed whilst out filming. That call changed everything about the film and it became the story of Mohammed Nabbous - an ordinary person who becomes extraordinary because of freedom.

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