Zahra Mackaoui

Revolution of Smiles

Producer/Camera/Narrator
BBC Arabic/BBC World

In February 2019, protests erupted on the streets of Algiers after it was announced that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was considering running for an unprecedented fifth term. Outraged that the ailing 82-year-old president, who hadn't delivered a speech in public since 2013, was being presented in absentia yet again, Algerians took to the streets in the first of a series of nationwide demonstrations that continue to this day. Their protests led to Bouteflika's resignation on 2 April.

In what has been called 'The Revolution of Smiles', this peaceful rebellion has emboldened the Algerian people to demand the removal of the entire political system. But the Algerian army is trying hard to slow down such radical change. Rushed trials of selected oligarchs for corruption are viewed with suspicion by many as an appeasement tactic. As time passes, there are concerns that the military - which argues that a political void will fuel ethnic division and lead to the dismantling of the state - will attempt to steal the momentum and impose their own tailored transition.

This 30-minute documentary reveals how Algerians are trying to rewrite the history of revolutions in the Arabic-speaking world. We follow leading characters from the Harak - the protest movement - to discover their personal reasons for coming onto the streets. They include Anes, Algeria's most famous YouTuber, who is outraged by the corruption that is eating the country; Zubaida, a famous lawyer, who laments corruption in the judicial system; and Louisa, a renowned photojournalist, who is fighting for a free press. We see them in the thick of the protests and hear their hopes for the future of the country. Will Algerians remain united in their demands for a total break with the regime? How far will the army support them? Can the spirit of the revolution, and the hope it inspires, persist?

Image credit: Louiza Ammi.