Mobilizing People to Overthrow Hosni Mubarak
Although Tamer’s first video work was banned in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan due to its open exposure of the Egyptian people’s cry for the ousting of the then-sitting President Hosni Mubarak, it garnered over two million views on various online media sites, such as the Huffington Post, Reddit, YouTube, and Facebook, where it went viral and became among the most viewed videos of that year.
The video not only reflected Tamer’s boldness and courage to stand up for his country, but it also showed his undying support for the freedom of the nation he calls his own—the Egyptian nation. Tamer, through his filmmaking, actively supported the cause of the Egyptian opposition whose aim was to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak, a 30–year reigning tyrant whose government crippled the country to its very core.
Bringing Change in Egypt while in America
Tamer’s bold step into filmmaking and activism is fuelled not just by his desire in seeing change in Egypt, but also by his extraordinary boldness and passion for making a change for the better. Tamer believes that one man’s passion can inspire another to do his part in starting a positive change in society, eventually encouraging others to stand up for what they believe in. Tamer said once in a blog he wrote:
“There is nothing more contagious than passion. If I could deliver a piece of advice through all this, it would be to stop trying to survive and start living. Do what you're passionate about and use that passion to inspire the world and to give others the opportunity to do the same. Dare to make a difference and leap into the unknown.”
It is so amazing how a small act can inspire a number of people to fight for what they believe in. Tamer’s video about the revolution inspired millions in Egypt, giving them the courage to get out of the safety of their homes and fight for their country’s freedom.
Tamer did not see his contribution as something small and insignificant; he was always confident that no matter how small your contribution may be, if you believe that it is going to help, then it will do the job. He often states in interviews:
“I believed for a minute that we could stop a 30-year reigning tyrant. I contributed with a video that went on to inspire millions during the revolutions. Who knows what other effect it may have had, but all it took was a minute of belief. That is the greatest service you could contribute.”
Named One of the 25 Most Influential and Powerful Young People in the World
Tamer’s work in inspiring millions of Egyptian citizens to action led to his being recognized by people from all over the world. He was named one of the 25 Most Influential and Powerful Young People in the World by Youth Service America, a non-governmental organization that aims to recognize the extraordinary efforts of youth from all over the world in making a positive change in society.
But Tamer’s fame in filmmaking is not just in the videos that he released regarding the Egyptian Revolution. He has produced several short films that have also gained widespread recognition in the independent film industry, so much so that one of his films made it to the Cannes Film Festival.
Tamer’s extraordinary love for making films roots from realizing how a five–minute video can inspire so many people and incite change in society. Tamer said:
“Movies and technology have always been a source of fascination for me. Although I initially didn't understand how closely the two could complement each other, I saw each as a very powerful weapon for change—movies with their ability to inspire through the content provided to the audience, and technology—specifically software—with the ability to create something from nothing.”
Tamer on his Filmmaking
Tamer makes videos that try to connect both worlds together. In his videos, he tries to create a perspective that people from both sides of the planet will begin to understand and appreciate. This is what makes his works very popular. Tamer has said:
“My life goal has been to bridge the gap between the East and the West. I have stayed away from politics, religion and race. I’m only trying to show people’s struggle for freedom and human rights.”
From Egypt to Saudi Arabia
Tamer Shaaban was born to Egyptian parents who strongly oppose the government due to its corrupt practices and unfair treatment of its citizens. Back then, Egypt was in such a terrible mess due to the tyrannical reign of the then–sitting President Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt with an iron hand, killed those who opposed him and put the country under martial law. Life was terrible in Egypt back then, as there was much abuse, violence and poverty.
In spite of the harsh life that was surrounding him, Tamer was quite fortunate to have parents who were, in a way, ‘better off’ than most of their neighbors. Aside from this, Tamer’s father was a man of integrity and principle, and always encouraged his son to never be afraid to fight for what he believed was right.
When Tamer was still very young, his father brought him and the entire family to Saudi Arabia to seek for a better life. Tamer spent a lot of his youth with his father, who often brought him to the gym as early as five in the morning during weekends, which was followed by a short walk to the beach where they would exchange their thoughts on the ongoing crises.
In these exchanges, Tamer’s father would often encourage him to never look down on himself and always look for the good in every situation. Many years later, Tamer recalled how great an influence his father was in his life:
“He often told me, 'Don't ever think you're not good enough. There are enough people out there that will try to hold you down, but the one person who will keep you down is you. Don't let the opinions of those around you determine the measure of your own success. If you're passionate about something, go for it.' More importantly, my father taught me that applying my passion to my work had the power to really make a difference. There is nothing that I have taken more from my childhood than that.”
Because of his parents’ constant encouraging, Tamer grew up with a positive outlook in life and an innate desire to become someone who would make world a better place. When he studied in Dhahran High School, Tamer was often regarded by his teachers as a bright and very talented student. Tamer also had a positive attitude, which caused him to attract a lot of people to his side. He graduated from Dhahran High School in 2007 with excellent marks.
Tamer Discovers Filmmaking in Georgia Institute of Technology
Looking for a good place to study college, Tamer went to the United States after his graduation and enrolled in the Georgia Institute of Technology to study computer science, while the rest of his family returned to Egypt.
It was in the Georgia Institute of Technology that Tamer first developed his interest in filmmaking. It began when he and a group of his friends started making inspirational short films that talked about people and life in general. While filmmaking was not really much of an ‘in’ thing in the university, Tamer took a bold step and started a career in producing short films.
Founder of Mantis Films
Soon enough, Tamer began to receive positive feedback from his friends and viewers who reported that his films touched them and gave them a broader perspective of things. This encouraged Tamer to further develop his skills in filmmaking, and to take his career to a whole new level. Sometime around his sophomore year, Tamer founded Mantis Films in order to establish himself in the filmmaking industry. Tamer recalled the beginnings of his career in an interview:
“I began to create short films with my friends in college and wrote films that really had meaning and value to people; films that could move people. I began to really see an interesting response from my audience. When hearing or reading such comments, I felt something tingle in my chest. From this, I created Mantis Films with the intention of creating films that would show the audience concepts, subject matter, and issues through a different light, a different angle, and a different color spectrum.”
The Streetcorners’ Success
Since the inception of Mantis Films, Tamer has worked rigorously in making quality, inspirational short videos that centered on a different view of things in life. Tamer’s first official film, entitled “Streetcorners,” became a success and garnered the Best Drama Award at Georgia Tech and went on to become a finalist at the South Regional Grand Finale in 2009, winning Campus Best Picture at the Atlanta Campus MovieFest.
Prior to the selection of his film, Tamer did not plan on making a second one; however, due to the success of “Streetcorners,” Tamer began to realize the significant change he was making through his ability to produce good videos.
The Whispers of Shaitan Makes it to Cannes Film Festival
Tamer’s second film, which was entitled “The Whispers of Shaitan,” far exceeded his first film, so much so that it not only won the Best Picture Award at Georgia Tech and Campus Best Picture at the Atlanta Campus MovieFest, but it was also selected to screen at both the Atlanta Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival. These feats opened new doors for Tamer, who was beginning to realize that he was indeed meant to become a filmmaker.
Filming the YouTube Viral Video
In January 2011, during Tamer’s senior year at Georgia Tech, the Egyptian Revolution broke out after months of heated incidents between President Mubarak’s government and the citizens. After so many years of oppression, a large group of Egyptian people decided to overthrow the dictator Mubarak.
Tamer was in his dorm with some of his friends when they witnessed the start of the revolution that would change Egypt forever. Sitting there in the dorm room watching the violent events unfold, Tamer began to collate his thoughts and realize that his family was in the place where the revolution was happening.
A few days later, Tamer received news that one of his family members died during the protests, and the situation in Egypt was getting more and more dangerous. He sat down and thought to himself:
“Imagine sitting at a desk halfway across the world as you watch the streets that you used to play in as a child consumed by flames and tear gas, and the people who endured hardships without complaint being beaten in the streets when they finally raised their voices, by the same people who swore to protect them. What would you do? Would you try to get the word out to reach world leaders everywhere? Or would you turn off your TV and go to bed?”
Pondering on the intensity of the situation in his home country, Tamer sat down and began to think about what he can do to somehow contribute to the cause of the people. As he sat in front of his computer, limited by the long distance between him and Egypt, endlessly browsing the Internet for information while he waited for the safe arrival of his sister and other family members, Tamer came across a YouTube video about a poor man who was very angry with the current Egyptian political structure. This guy, who was voicing out all his frustrations, was so poor that he could not even feed his own children due to the very downtrodden situation in the country.
Right then and there, Tamer got an idea on how he was going to be able to help his fellow countrymen— he will make a video about the revolution. This way, even though he was miles away from the place where the revolution was happening, Tamer would be able to contribute encourage other Egyptians to unite in the ousting of Mubarak. He stated in an interview:
“At the time, I did the only thing I knew how -- I made a short film with a message. The message was simple: 'We are Egyptian. We are human. Let us be human. Let us be free.' It wasn't about race, religion, or class. It was about being human. Something any person could relate to around the globe. I compiled a movie using news shots and first-person footage displaying the inhumane acts committed by a government on its people. Something the world hadn't seen before. It was a simple service and the least I could do for the country I love. But what I came to realize is that service is power.”
While Tamer was not really expecting to get an award for his video, he wanted to influence those who would be interested enough to pay his video attention. Little did Tamer know that his video would have so much influence; soon enough, Tamer began receiving thousands of comments and emails from people all over the world who were declaring their support for Egypt and its people.
Sharing the Video on Facebook
The video became viral across numerous social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube, and Tamer began receiving messages from Egyptian locals stating that when they saw the video, they were encouraged and decided to take to the streets to fight for their freedom and rights.
Tamer began to see how powerful his simple video became. In an interview made with him later on, he recalled this amazing moment:
“For the first time in my life, I saw Egyptian people no longer wanting to just survive, but live. I realized that one person can start a difference, but together we make it. The people, especially the youth, had made so much noise that world leaders everywhere were now condemning the tyrannical leader in power until he had no choice but to step down. I saw the power of film and technology and how they worked hand-in-hand to move millions and generate change. I saw hundreds more people begin to upload films around the same idea. People were now using social networks as more than just a tool to connect, but inspire and rally others to their cause. From the Libyan revolution to Wall Street all the way to the Kony 2012 video, I began to see videos calling for change.”
More Success for Tamer’s Video about Egypt
After the successful ousting of President Mubarak, Tamer released a second video which showed several of his fellow Technology students saying the words “I support Egypt,” “I support peace,” and “I support freedom” in different languages to signify the support of the international community to the rebuilding of Egypt. The video, which was released in January 2012, was featured in Al-Jazeera and many other blogs online.
Tamer graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2011, earning his bachelor’s degree. Currently, he is working on his third film, which he plans to release sometime in 2013.
Tamer’s life serves as an inspiration to us by helping us understand that there is no such thing as small or insignificant when it comes to contributing something for the betterment of others. Just like Tamer’s short video clip that inspired millions of people around the world, our seemingly small actions have great consequences that can change the world. Tamer said this in an interview:
“I believe that everyone has an innate need to positively inspire change in their communities, but I also believe the ability to do so is not a given. So, if I can inspire that ability to pursue avenues of change through a video I make, then that is a reason I would continue trying to make that contribution.”
- 2009: Streetcorners
- 2010: The Whispers of Shaitan
- 2010: Granted
Awards and Achievements
- 2009: Won Campus Best Picture at the Campus Movie Fest (Streetcorners)
- 2011: Won Campus Best Picture at the Campus Movie Fest (The Whispers of Shaitan)
- 2012: Included in the 25 Most Influential and Powerful Young People in the World by Youth Service America