Qabila

Taking the spirit of the revolution to TV

Rights & dissent This article is part of the series Censorship

Ahmed Fathelbab wants to create his own qabila (“tribe” in Arabic). It should consist of a group of people linked to each other, supporting each other and sharing with each other, just like in the tribes that used to make up Egypt’s main communities. Only the tribesmen and women of Fathelbab’s tribe should not be connected by family ties but by a passion. The passion for media.

Fathelbab founded Qabila TV in 2010 along with 12 other young Egyptians, and so far their tribe has been growing fast. People all over Egypt have been contributing to their online, crowd-sourced video productions by sharing their ideas and offering their skills. The result of this collaboration is a number of short-films, info-graphic video clips and music videos. Qabila TV is a community-driven media with the spirit of the tribe and – not least – the revolution. Conceived last year, it has been jumpstarted by an uprising that demonstrates the power of the very ideas that the non-profit production company relies upon. Mashallah News spoke to Fathelbab, creative director at Qabila TV, in Cairo.

Qabila TV is a community-driven media with the spirit of the tribe and – not least – the revolution.

“What happened in Egypt really affirms the notion that you can do amazing stuff by depending on the public and on collective effort. Our plan was to work for a year producing videos before actually launching the website, but the revolution changed this. We felt a need to take part in what was happening very quickly”

The crew behind the project mostly hold jobs in the media business, but with Qabila TV, they feel able to escape the constraints of their daily work. Although the revolution may have loosened the ties on Egyptian media, that doesn’t mean that an industry with strong hierarchies all of a sudden has become open to new ideas and approaches.

“A lot of media organizations in Egypt and the Arab world are only imitating what happens in Europe and the United States. They are just Arabizing programs from abroad, like talent shows and so on. We want to create an independent media that flows from the concerns, aspirations and challenges of the people of Egypt and the Arab world. We are very much concerned that the media speaks the people’s own language and that the themes flow from the people’s own problems and challenges.”

“We want to create an independent media that flows from the concerns, aspirations and challenges of the people of Egypt and the Arab world.”

So you don’t think the established media in Egypt is able to address important issues in the language of its people at the moment?

“Perhaps they can and perhaps they will improve over time. But the revolution has shown us the power of collective action. This is our basic, founding principle. We are a social enterprise, we are non-profit and we depend on the collective efforts of people. This is what distinguishes us from other production companies. We are value-driven, not profit-driven, and we try to start from where people stand and capitalize on their ideas. And I feel that we already have had great success using this approach.”

How do you measure your success?

“By the number of people getting involved. We are only in the beginning and yet we are already getting many original ideas from people. Every day new people are contacting us, and we now have writers from every governorate in Egypt.”

What kind of ideas and support do you get from people?

“They send us ideas for short films, and they send us songs and poems about the revolution that they want us to make videos of. We have also gotten ideas for a series of sarcastic commercials that deal with serious problems, like religious conflicts. Other people help out doing graphics or translation.”

“We are value-driven, not profit-driven, and we try to start from where people stand and capitalize on their ideas.”

What are the issues you want to address?

“The most important theme for us right now is awareness. Since the revolution we are faced with many political terms that not all people are familiar with, so we created this series of info-graphic video clips to describe in a simple manner what the terms are about. Two of our latest productions are about different presidential and parliamentary systems and these scenarios were sent to us in an email by one of our viewers. She wrote the script and we made the film.”

The info-graphic series has been an instant hit online with its simple and humorous presentations of complicated political issues. It has also made its way into the established media. Recently, the respected TV-host Yosri Fouda used Qabila’s video clip on electoral systems as an introduction for a debate on this issue in his talkshow Akher Kalam (The Last Word).

What are your upcoming projects?

“We want to make a campaign about reading and how it affects one’s thoughts and life, all in a very funny and down-to-earth way. And we have started to produce a series about historical places in Egypt, done in a very new way. It will tell about how people used to live in these places, their customs and traditions, and how to use lessons from the past when we build our future.”

“Egypt now is really the right place to try something like this.”

How far do you want to take Qabila TV?

“We want to evolve into a large media institution in Egypt and we are now trying to make some business models. We will focus on internet production for some time but we also hope to make it into TV and later into cinema production. We will continue to build on the same ideas about public involvement, but we would like to go beyond having Qabila TV just as a side project.”

You mean producing crowd-sourced movies?

“Yes, community-driven movies where people help develop the script, design the costumes and so on. Egypt now is really the right place to try something like this, because people are very enthusiastic about taking part in such social projects.”

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3 thoughts on “Qabila

  1. Ustaz Ahmed, I would be interested to meet in Cairo – soon, inshallalah. Interested in community-driven film(s) on citizenship, civic engagement, civic responsibility, decentralzation, etc. for Egyptian NGO use in community education and outreach. Financing available.

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