Bassem Youssef is an enemy of the state in Egypt. His immensely popular show Al Bernameg (The Show) was the first to ever publicly question figures of authority, and quickly gained an audience of 30 million people per episode – in a country of 80 million.
In 2012, Mohamed Morsi’s government pursued charges against Youssef for “insulting the president,” “insulting Islam,” and “reporting false news.” In March 2013, Youssef was briefly detained, released on bail, and fined. Broadcast of Al Bernameg was suspended in November 2013. In 2014, Youssef announced that he was ending the program due to the dangerous political climate in Egypt. A lawsuit against him effectively forced him into exile. He now resides in the United States.
The new documentary Tickling Giants follows Youssef and his team at The Show as they faced ever-intensifying threats to their safety – and trying not to get arrested in a country where freedom of speech is not codified in law.
“The Egyptian Jon Stewart” took a few minutes to talk to Apt613 about Al Bernameg, what made it so popular, and how satire can be used as a tool to enact change.
Tickling Giants plays Wednesday June 7 at 6:30pm at the ByTowne Cinema (325 Rideau St). Tickets are available via Eventbrite or at the box office. Tickets are $12 and proceeds of the event will go to support One World Arts in delivering the 28th annual One World Film Festival, Ottawa’s longest running documentary film festival.