Ultras of Egypt (2018) - Ultra's van Egypte

‘Ultras of Egypt’ (2018) – when revolution fails

Ultras of Egypt is one of those powerful films where, I watched it in the beginning of the pandemic and it made me so sad, I couldn’t write the review. The filmmakers interview participants from the Arab Spring of 2011, who refer to the 18-day protest in Tahrir Square as The Revolution.

The revolution started as young people protested President Mubarak’s regime of tyranny, corruption and unjust arrests. As they occupied the public square, Ultras supporters groups from normally opposing football teams joined in a united front. They showed protestors how to resist the police and became a symbol of the Revolution, if not a driving force. Mubarak resigns, but his fall does not bring real change.

The documentary (aka Ultra’s van Egypte) was filmed 8 years later by the Dutch media company dimdocs for Dutch TV. Long story short, the Arab Spring protestors end up under more tyranny, arrests, and murder. The film starts with a remembrance of the 74 Ah Ahly martyrs lost to the cause: 50 of them trampled to death and 22 beaten to death by Port Said fans in what appears to be a police-aided plot. Later we learn that fans are banned from stadiums, and the Ultras of Al Ahly FC and Zamalek are labeled as terrorist groups.

There is little soccer in the film, it is really about the passion of the fans for their club and their hope for change.

Other films

Even though the Arab Spring failed, the event was monumental in Muslim countries. Because the Ultras provided such symbolic leadership, Arab Spring is often linked to football. It seems that in Middle Eastern countries, hooligans can be something other than a bunch of thugs, criminals, semi-military, or political operatives.

To see another football film related to Egypt and the Arab Spring, watch We Must Go. For a similar Ultras-led uprising in Turkey, see Istanbul United.

Edit on Dec-4-2023

While researching this film, I saw that Ahmed Hassan is also in The Square (2013), released 5 years earlier and nominated for best documentary. The Square is an incredible record of the protests and government violence in Egypt’s public squares from 2011-2013. It is currently available on Netflix. Ahmed Hassan and the actor Khalid Abdalla figure prominently in this revelatory exposé by female director Jehane Noujaim. If you want to see the Egyptian people and their reasons for the Arab Spring, you should watch The Square.

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8