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The Globe and Mail

Meet the man at the centre of TIFF’s revealing doc on Egypt’s revolution

Cast member Khalid Abdalla attends the premiere of "The Kite Runner" in Hollywood December 4, 2007.


Khalid Abdalla speaks in the opposite of sound bites – long, methodical sentences intended to explain a revolution that, for two years, he has helped keep alive.

"The sense of purpose has always been very clear," he says, describing the Egyptian revolution as a movement by the country's people to guarantee their fundamental rights, at a time when virtually all of Egypt's traditional bases of powers have failed to do so. "How to express it is something that has progressed over time."

Born in Glasgow but residing now mainly in Egypt, Mr. Abdalla is a third-generation activist – both his father and grandfather having spent considerable time and paid a hefty price for their work against Egypt's authoritarian rulers. As an actor, he is perhaps best-known for his roles in United 93 and the Kite Runner, a story about guilt and redemption set against the tumultuous recent history of Afghanistan.

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But since the revolution broke out two-and-a-half years ago, Mr. Abdalla has dedicated much of his time to the other side of the camera. He helped start Mosireen, a citizen-journalism group that captured many of the most brutal and iconic images of the revolution.

It is in that role where Mr. Abdalla appears in The Square, Jehane Noujaim's new documentary on post-revolution Egypt. The movie – and Mr. Abdalla – are in Canada this month for the Toronto International Film Festival.

Throughout the film, Mr. Abdalla provides an eloquent voice during times of chaos, be it in the middle of Tahrir Square or while editing footage of protesters getting arrested, trampled or shot. "You're always very aware of the importance of narrative during revolutions," he says.

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