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The Square

January 29, 2014

The Square (2013)
Director: Jehane Noujaim

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Synopsis: The lasting effects of the Egyptian Revolution that started in 2011 and continues to this day, is reflected through three different protesters: Ahmed (a young polemicist and filmmaker), Khalid (an Egyptian expat actor, returning to his homeland), and Magdy (one of the more conciliatory members of the Muslim Brotherhood).

Review: This is a beautiful and electric documentary that captures so vividly both the rapture at the heart of the Tahrir Square protests which ousted Hosni Mubarak as Egyptian leader in the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011, and the sense of betrayal that followed as the Army backlash and subsequent Muslim Brotherhood presidential election victory eroded the sanctity of that initial spark of revolution.

If anything, The Square‘s calling-card is less to do with its politics (which for the most part is fairly one-sided), but more in capturing the thrill, verve and ethos of this most ‘modern’ of revolutions. It’s a showcase for how social networking, YouTube and Skype calls can spread revolutionary fervour like wildfire, and how the relatively cheap and resourceful Canon 7 cameras are revolutionising the lustre of guerrilla filmmaking. It helped that one of the protester’s apartments was looking right out over Tahrir Square, so we get a stratospheric feel for the epic, popular sentiment of the revolution.

Admittedly, the film does come across at times as a one-sided mouthpiece for a very exclusive group of articulate, middle-class protesters with huge bones to pick about both the army’s conduct, and how the Muslim Brotherhood capitalised on, and betrayed, the true revolutionary spirit – exploiting an opportunity to move themselves into a position of power as the only really ‘organised’ political movement in the vacuum of Mubarak’s fall. We don’t get much of a sense of how these young intellectuals actually go about earning their living on a daily basis, and if anything the documentary builds to reveal a sense of regret that they didn’t use the revolution as a springboard to collectivise their own political movement and offer a decent secular alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood. (January 2014)

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