The Reluctant Revolutionary

Directed by Sean McAllister

An intimate portrait of Yemen as the revolution unfolds, told through the eyes of tour guide leader Kais, an intelligent commentator on the changing times in Yemen, offering poignant moments of reflection, loss, anger and hope on the unknown road to revolution. Filmed over the course of the past year with exceptional access to a country where no other camera crews or journalists were allowed to remain, we see Kais’s journey from pro-President to reluctant revolutionary, joining angry protesters in the increasingly bloody streets of Sana’a.

Kais is a 35 year-old tour guide from Sana’a, the Yemeni capital, struggling to make ends meet and working in his father’s travel agency. He is philosophical, articulate and reflective but as the story begins he is cynical about the undercurrents of dissent in his country and supportive of the President.

When one of his tours has to be cut short due to the instability and increased danger for tourists, Kais returns to Sana’a to find 2 permanent camps in the city centre: one for the President and one against. Kais is adamant that protests wont solve anything, that the President is doing his best and that violence will never be used to quash the protests. At first, he refuses to enter the anti-president camp, but is convinced by Sean to have a look one night. Over a number of visits we see Kais change, “I never imagined seeing rival tribes coming and sitting here in peace, without their Kalashnikovs” he declares.

As the protest camp grows from ‘Change Square’ to take over the surrounding streets we see that like Kais, many other people are also being converted to the movement. Kais embraces the revolution as each Friday gets bigger, and bloodier. Through his eyes, we see the events unfolding in the peace camps – the reactions to killings, defections, the President’s failure to sign a peace deal – and understand what the revolution means to ordinary Yemenis. Sean shows us a revolution in the making through the eyes of ordinary yemeni citizens, and paints a subtle picture that shows us the very root of people’s discontent and their demands from the government.

Meanwhile, all foreign journalists are tracked down and sent out of the country, and soon Sean is the only remaining foreigner in his hotel.


“One of the most immediate and accessible descriptions of the Arab Spring yet to emerge”  The Hollywood Reporter

“The Reluctant Revolutionary makes for a strong, political start in Panoroma Dokumente… it presents images from the burning revolution in Yemen that are unlike anything we’ve seen on television”  IndieWire

“Investigative journalism of the most intense kind… whatever one may hear about the role of social networks for the organization and impact of such revolutions, they only become real in the old-fashioned but fearlessly engaged way in which Sean McAllister brings them to the big screen” Berliner Zeitung

“This documentary of a stubborn, red cheeked Brit tells you more about the Arab Spring than all articles on the cultural pages or political analyses… one has never felt to close to this country” Stern


“Worldview has offered invaluable support to me in the last year, the Multimedia Fund I received came at the right time to complete film projects that would have otherwise not been completed. It is to the complete credit of organisations like Worldview which, in my opinion, do great work that has international recognition and is seen throughout the world supporting core human rights and development issues. A truly vital and necessary fund in otherwise difficult times for film makers” – Sean McAllister, Director.