The Reluctant Revolutionary

Sean McAllister

During the revolution in Yemen in 2011, Kais, the friendly, qat-chewing tourist guide, transforms from skeptical outsider into engaged participant. Through him, we are drawn into the revolutionary arena from a very personal perspective. It makes for a thrilling, nerve-wracking, and, most of all, shocking experience.

Documentary filmmaker Sean McAllister finds himself at the center of the action in early 2011, as the revolution is about to break out in Yemen. Sitting president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the ‘father of corruption’, has been in power for 33 years, but the Arab Spring bolsters discontent among the population. In the build-up to an important turning point in the revolution, McAllister follows his affable guide Kais, a young father who prefers to look on at the tumult from a distance, chewing his qat leaves all the while. The filmmaker works in the classic reportage style, shooting with a hand-held camera, often from Kais’s car, which is constantly on the move. Kais’s observations are mostly on practical matters: ever since the riots started, tourists have been staying away, his debts have been piling up, and his pregnant wife has given him an ultimatum. As far as he’s concerned, peace should be kept at any cost. But encouraged by McAllister, they pay a visit to ‘Change Square’ in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen and the epicenter of the peaceful protests. We see Kais gradually transforming from a skeptical outsider into an engaged participant.


Sean McAllister
Country of production
United Kingdom, Ireland
70 minutes
Spoken language
Arabic, English
Production company
Ten Foot Films ltd