I’ve never been one to sit still for long, but even I got a handful of sidelong glances when Rebecca and I told our friends we were going to Egypt just a few months after being married. Our goal: to attempt to film a documentary on Muslim-Christian relations in post-revolution Egypt.
Because I taught English in Egypt in 2009, I followed the Egyptian revolution closely from multiple news sources and the perspectives of Egyptian friends. It was when I stumbled across a news site showing images of interfaith unity in Tahrir Square, however, that my mind really started turning over the possibility of exploring the issue. Rebecca and I did some more research and came up with the idea of documenting the story–but we didn’t really know where to start or even if it was feasible. I had previously done a few promotional videos using a rented Canon AXH1, but nothing close to shooting a documentary. Nonetheless, inspired by the stories of unity we heard, and noting their sharp contrast to the horror stories of interfaith violence we heard constantly from our more cynical friends, we crossed our fingers and purchased plane tickets to arrive in Cairo just before the New Year. Naturally, we bought the cheapest flights available which left us no possibility of a refund and provided ample motivation to turn the idea into a feasible reality.
We spent two months feverishly trying to build a list of contacts, gather (and learn to properly use) an assortment of travelable camera gear, and sift the knowledge of the subject we already possessed to delineate the things we would need to get on film. Although there were some trying moments, we were blessed with the help of our many good friends and the willingness of Dr. David Shenk to meet with us before leaving (see the One Hand Concept Pre-Trailer).
We landed in Cairo late on December 29th, 2011, with a handful of contacts (many of which we gathered from Dr. Kees Huslman of the Arab-West Report during our layover in Amsterdam) and a very, very loose itinerary. We quickly got our bearings and started filming at the Two Saints Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve. After that, the trip was a fast-paced blur of little sleep, lots of filming, and plenty of Nescafe coffees. We were thrilled to find that Egyptians we talked with were very open to our project and willing to help us make further connections along the way. Moreover, we were impressed with the many humble and sincere Egyptians we met–of all ages and political orientations–who shared their honest desire for equality and solidarity between Muslims and Christians.
Towards the end of the trip, we were able to take a break for a few days and visit some friends in a small, rural village outside of Assiut. I had met the father and second son of the Gendy family while I was teaching in Alexandria in 2009. The father of the family, Yousef, works in Alexandria and is only able to go home to his family 10 days every 2 months. While he was not able to be there when we visited (we did visit him in Alexandria) it was a privilege to meet the rest of his family and be honored as guests in his home. We were treated with stunning hospitality, and it was a precious respite in the middle of our strenuous filming schedule.
Since returning home to the States, we have moved into a new apartment, applied to school, caught up on work for my business clients, continued cleaning office buildings, and, finally, released our trailer: see One Hand the Movie Official Trailer.