The Square (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/01/2014

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 104 mins

Impressively directed and superbly shot, this is powerfully moving documentary that's by turns gripping, shocking, terrifying, deeply upsetting, but ultimately hopeful.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jehane Noujaim, The Square is a documentary that traces the events of Egypt's Tahir Square protests over the course of the last three years, beginning in early 2011 when millions of people took to the streets to demand the removal of President Mubarek. However, when Mubarek stepped down, his military fascist dictatorship was essentially replaced by a religious fascist dictatorship under President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, so the protestors returned to the Square in the face of violent military oppression.

Using a mixture of fly-on-the-wall sequences and frequent scenes with the protestors addressing the camera, Noujaim tells the events primarily through focussing on three activists in particular, all of whom are friends: charismatic, passionate young artist Ahmed Hassan; British accented actor-turned activist Khalid Abdalla (star of The Kite Runner), who becomes a frequent on-the-spot spokesman in the media for the movement; and family man Magdy Ashour, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, who finds his loyalties to his friends tested once the Brotherhood seize power and are accused of betraying the revolution.

The Good
Along with the protestors themselves, Noujaim returns to the Square repeatedly over the course of three years (she even went back to the Square to add the most recent scenes after the film premiered at Sundance). Accordingly, her cameras are there to capture every phase of the revolution, from the initial hopes and joyous jubilation once Mubarek steps down, to the growing sense of suspicion surrounding the military-led interim government, and the general disillusionment and angry betrayal as the Muslim Brotherhood attain power through a deal with the military.

Noujaim's subjects are well chosen: Ahmed in particular is an extraordinary figure, shouting himself hoarse throughout the course of the film and expressing powerful ideas, such as when he argues about the planned constitution by saying ‘Religion should not be on paper, it should be in the heart and in the mind.' Indeed, the only problem with the protest movement, as they themselves admit, is that there's no alternative political party for the people to get behind, hence the opportunism of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Great
The film is superbly shot throughout and filled with powerful images, such as overhead shots of millions of people occupying the Square or scenes of recording smartphones raised in protest against police brutality. There are also moments that are both shocking and terrifying, such as badly beaten singer Ramy Essam testifying to his torture or the army firing on civilians, with Noujaim's cameras right in the line of fire.

Worth seeing?
The Square is a gripping, powerfully emotional and well-made documentary that offers an insightful and ultimately inspirational perspective on a group of remarkable people who are prepared to die for the future of Egypt. Recommended.

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Content updated: 23/09/2018 13:22

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