Monday, August 20, 2012

STF Critic Marcus O'Sullivan on The Reluctant Revolutionary

"A fascinating glimpse into Yemeni society" - Marcus O'Sullivan, IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic reviews The Reluctant Revolutionary.

The Reluctant Revolutionary might have been called The Accidental Documentary. Director Sean McAllister initially travelled to Yemen to document the decline in tourism caused by the Arab Spring uprisings. His timing couldn’t have been worse/better, as Yemen eventually erupts into chaos with himself in the thick of it. 

The hand-held footage of the unrest is stunning. It begins with the initial hope and patriotism of young Yemenis camped out in the square, quickly replaced by graphic scenes of carnage in the make-shift field hospitals. It’s gut-wrenching stuff, and the mass rally held the day after the violence in response is shockingly courageous. 

The first half of the documentary isn’t quite as effective, but still compelling. Qais, the tour guide, is a likable character, fatalistic but cheerful. He’s a private man as well, and McAllister is unable to get him to open up much. Things start to getting more interesting during night-time drives around the city, where the paranoia and secrecy of everyday life becomes evident.

McAllister’s determination on inserting himself into the narrative as a character is unfortunate, and often detracts from the events around him. Despite this, he has given us a fascinating glimpse into Yemeni society, and captured the bloody moment when a country’s fate was changed irreversibly. 

Marcus O'Sullivan (@mwosullivan)
IFI Stranger Than Fiction Festival Critic

IFI Stranger Than Fiction, Dublin's Documentary Film Festival run from 16th - 19th August  - for more information visit

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