Watch out for “The Square”

Shortlisted for a 2014 Oscar, Jehane Noujaim’s documentary “The Square” promises to be an anthology of competing narratives on the many lives of Tahrir Square since January 2011. Since its release, Noujaim’s film won the Audience Award for World Cinema in the documentary category at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, as well as the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

At the time the film was shown in Toronto, events in Egypt were already receiving heightened coverage in Canada on the backdrop of the continued incarceration of two Canadian citizens who were caught hanging around the wrong place at the wrong time on August 16th 2013, shortly after the crackdown on Rabia Square. This interest in Egypt may have aided Noujaim’s winning of the award, but that cannot detract from the technical and visual merits of her documentary.

I haven’t actually seen it though. My presumptuous opinion  on the merits of the film are based upon viewing two of Noujaim’s other works. In 2004 she awed me with “Control Room”, about Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the War on/in Iraq. The movie captured all the tension among the views of those who opposed and those elated the news agency; those who saw it as undermining US led democratic change, and those who championed it as a beacon of freedom. What the movie didn’t do was attempt to give conclusive answers.

In light of the prevalent media in Egypt, people who don’t try to give conclusive answers, who don’t peddle untested truisms as facts, come as a refreshing breath of air.

Noujaim’s “Solar Mamas” is another wonderful movie; a story of determination, empowerment, and an inspiring passion for self-improvement. I give you the trailer in case you’re not familiar with the movie or with Noujaim’s work in general. If women empowerment, social development, or alternative livelihoods is your thing, you should really make the time to watch the full movie.

Back to “The Square”, which was independently produced with the help of a kickstarter campaign, and I must say that I anticipate its release in Egypt with wary excitement, for I am not sure whether the movie’s final cut will pass the sensors unscathed. Supposedly, the film shows some scenes of the brutality by which protesters were dealt with during the run up to the parliamentary and presidential elections of 2012 and 2013 respectively. If anything, I hope the release of the movie will help remind us of police and military atrocities against Egyptians. I am almost certain however that Jehane and the rest of her crew will be labelled as traitors and foreign agents. Someone will be able to link a a crew member or two with a friend of a friend whose second cousin twice removed was a member of Shin Bet. Or it might just be easier to accuse the Director of “foreignness” and sexual promiscuity, seeing as how she’s half American and probably room-mated with boys during college (tsk tsk).

There’s a scene in “The Square” where a waiter at a street side cafe, when asked “what has the revolution done to you?”, answers “If nothing at all, it’s at least given me back some dignity. If a copper gives me a hard time now I can beat him with my shoe”.

Needless to say I instantly took a liking to the man. Now I’m waiting for the first chance to see the full version of the film.

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