The Square (2013) – Documentary Film Review

An intense first-hand retelling of events that defined the Egyptian revolution, from Mubarak to Morsi the film captures the feelings of a whole nation in turmoil.

The film primarily centres around the Tahrir Square, a large public square in downtown Cairo that has now become a symbol of freedom to the Egyptian people. It is here that the film begins in 2011, masses of people come together to revolt against the military fascist rule of Muhammed Mubarak demanding he step down as President.

Ahmed, a young political activist, could be described as the protagonist of the film, or he at least acts as a medium between the events and the audience. He describes how the people’s revolt against Mubarak transcended any political or religious agenda, the people united under their mutual nationality of being Egyptian and being oppressed.

Following scenes depict the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and how this led to Morsi being elected as the new leader of the country. It can’t be disputed that the film adds another dimension of humanity and depth to the people and events that isn’t always communicated through the dry headlines and pictures in foreign news. In order to truly experience the suffering,┬áJehane Noujaim took us to the kitchens and living rooms in Egyptian homes where politics was always going to be the centre of discussion.

Of course, she was also able to portray stomach-turning injuries and clips that test the viewer’s belief in humanity. These aren’t the dramatised injuries seen in Tarantino films but the maimed and deceased martyrs of a just cause. There was a scary realism to certain scenes, imagery that made you convulse and gag and indeed as Ahmed says ‘it was a war, not a revolution.’

Noujaim has to be commended for her bravery but also her commitment to the cause of bringing a huge injustice to light. The handheld frantic camera intensifies what can only be defined as raw terror in certain scenes, as civilians race away from the sound of live bullets fired from the ‘pacifist’ police.

She was also able to include opinions and views from military officers who turned a blind eye to any mention of police aggression or violence. The corruption is certainly evident and the whole poignancy of the situation is exacerbated by the fact it’s a contemporary problem not just in Egypt but in a multitude of other countries.

The film has deservedly received mountains of praise and has even been nominated for an Oscar. It’s a sobering and spectacular documentary available to all Netflix members, anyone who watches it will be hugely informed and gratified.

8.2/10

Dan Iacono

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