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Wael Omar tackles Egypt's football Ultras

The footballing massacre that claimed the lives of 74 young men and injured a thousand more in the Port Said soccer stadium this February is the subject of a new documentary feature to be directed by award-winning Egyptian filmmaker Wael Omar.

Being made under Omar’s Middle West Films production banner, the 80-minute film will spotlight the Ultras, the legendary extremist fans of Cairo’s Al Ahly soccer club who comprised most of the victims. The producer of the film, provisionally titled The Day I Stop Chanting Is The Day I’ll Be Dead is Film Clinic’s Mohamed Hefzy.

The Port Said carnage, which marked a one-year anniversary of a Tahrir Square confrontation, was widely seen as a politically motivated attack. The Ultras have played a central part in the Egyptian revolution protests, helping to organise ambulance passages and locking arms in the face of tear gas canisters. Omar describes the Ultras as the most important
sect of Egyptian politics and perhaps - with the exception of the Muslim
Brotherhood - the single most important player in the court of public opinion
in Egypt.

“This film is my attempt to understand the Arab spring on my own terms,” Omar, told Screen Daily. “Things really started to hit me hard after the football fans became one of the most active parts of the Egyptian freedom movement.”

Since that massacre, there has been no professional football matches played in Egypt. Nonetheless, Al Ahly, Africa’s most successful soccer team, finds itself playing this week in FIFA’s World Club Cup competition in Japan where it has just made it through to the semi-finals despite not playing for the last nine months.

Omar’s new documentary follows the success for his last documentary, In Search of Oil and Sand, which was awarded a best director prize at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in October.

In protest of attacks by Egyptian police against demonstrators at Tahrir Square, Omar withdrew In Search of Oil and Sand from the 35th edition of Cairo International Film Festival which has just ended.

Explaining his decision, Omar said: “I refuse to participate in a film festival under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture, while the Egyptian government is attacking demonstrators and dragging people down in Egyptian streets for protesting against the constitutional declaration that grants the president absolute powers, which is considered unprecedented in any democratic country”.

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