Skip to main content
The Independent Critic

Hammuda Abidia, Ali Aneizi, Ibrahim Aneizi, Abdo Farhood, Fauzi Ftona, Tawfik Mansourey, Amir Masud, Matthew Millan, Sajida Zew, Zuhoor Zew
Matthew Millan
20 Mins.

 "We Win or We Die" Goes Behind-the-Scenes in Libya 
Add to favorites
In February of 2011, the people of Eastern Libya revolted against the 40+ year regime of Moammar Gaddafi. Standing in the way of their revolt is the Katiba, a symbol of terror in the heart of Benghazi that held heavy artillery and a large number of soldiers ready to pounce on any sign of disruption or rebellion. On February 18th, the Katiba's guns were let loose but soon there is no turning back for the people of Benghazi. They know that to move forward against the Katiba is to trigger brutality, but they also know to not move forward may be a fate even worse than death.

In this moving and thought-provoking short film, director Matthew Millan captures eloquently the power of the people this time and, in particular, the power of one man - Mahdi Zew. Zew absolutely knew that bringing down the Katiba was essential if the rebellion were to have any chance at success. So, he sacrificed himself in the name of freedom for his nation and his people.

Millan spent a year in Libya at the invitation of a friend who returned to the nation in March of 2011 after 36 years of exile. The friend wanted Millan to document the uprising. Millan contemplated his friend's request for a week, deciding to go for it at a bachelor party in Las Vegas just as Gaddafi's forces were besieging Benghazi.

Millan has captured footage that avoids any sense of pretense or manipulation because there's no question that it is vital and real and relevant. Even when he incorporates animation into his film, Millan keeps the tone realistic and natural. The result is a film with remarkable and raw power that captivates with its truth and inspires with the power of one person to make such an incredible difference.

We Win or We Die has already played at several film festivals including Slamdance, Indianapolis International Film Festival, HollyShorts and others while picking up multiple prizes along the way.

We Win or We Die is a reminder of how film can be utilized to both change the world and document vividly those who are changing the world, and Millan has done a marvelous job of illustrating a slice of the Libyan Revolution that didn't receive near the attention that it deserved. Given the challenges of filming inside Libya, production values are remarkably good. The film's animations and graphics were designed by Evan Sexton with a visual style that fits the subject matter perfectly, allowing for the images that are brought forth to evoke the grassroots nature of the rebellion and a sense of fundamentalism that somehow makes it all more emotionally resonant. Erik Niel's accompanying music is exceptional, and Millan incorporates near the end of the film a rather remarkably poignant tune by Benghazi songwriter Dado Ikanovich called "We Will Not Surrender (We Win or We Die)," a tune he wrote with Rami El Kaleh, who was killed by Gaddafi loyalists on March 8, 2011.

For more information on We Win or We Die, visit the film's website and should it come to a film festival near you be sure to catch it for yourself.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic