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Abo Zaabal 1989

Fall Grants 2023 - Post-Production Stage

Bassam Mortada / Feature Documentary / Egypt, Germany, Qatar / 80 min / Original Language: Arabic / Interests: Documentary


In 1989, Mahmoud Mortada, Bassams father, was arrested, imprisoned and tortured at the infamous Abo Zabaal prison. Soon after his release, Mahmoud left his family and country to start a new life in Vienna. He would occasionally send cassette recordings from there to his wife and young son in Egypt. Bassam, a child of 5 in 1989, was raised by his mother, Fardous, a socialist activist herself, who made no secret of her anger and disappointment while carrying the burden of her own trauma and illness alone. She could not just “break down” like he had; she couldn’t just leave. Between these two narratives, one partial and occasional, the other full and immediate, Bassam grew alienated from both, suppressing his own trauma and confusion.

In this documentary, considering the events of 1989 and their enduring ramifications, Bassam films his efforts to restore relationships with his parents. His journey is to historical truth, emotional comprehension and psychological healing. In conversation with his parents, family, friends and fellow prisoners of his fathers, he elicits painful memories, perspectives and insights. Probing his own history, he re-listens to the recordings sent by his father from Vienna, recreating visions, flashbacks and memories based on stories he recalls and that were said to him. Going a step further, he reconstructs Abo Zaabal in order to reconstruct what he imagines his father endured 30+ years ago.


Bassam Mortada
Bassam Mortada
Kesmat Elsayed
Production Company
See Media Production, Seera Films, Joyti Film

About the Director

Bassam Mortada is a director, producer and activist. He is also a co-founder of See Media Production. He studied Independent filmmaking at the Jesuit Cairo Cinema School. As an independent filmmaker, Mortada worked with several independent institutions, NGOs and activists to document their lives, struggles and work. His first feature documentary ‘Reporting...a Revolution’ premiered at the Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin in 2012 and toured on film festival circuits globally.


  • Main Contact

    Kesmat Elsayed

    Seera Films

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