The Square (Al Midan) tracked five Egyptian revolutionaries from immediately before the fall of Hosni Mubarek until December of 2012.
Overall rating: 2 out of 4
Early in the film, we are introduced to five different people – real Egyptians, really involved in the struggle for a truly democratic government. One was a woman whose occupation and/or qualifications weren’t clear (we were only ever given her name, and only once). One was an actor whose father appeared to also be involved in Egyptian media (although not 100% certain it was his father, although there was a strong resemblance). One was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. One appeared to be a student, although again, his occupation wasn’t given. One was a soldier who did nothing but toe the party line.
The film followed these people from the day that Mubarek stepped down and many Egyptians thought their revolution was over, to the realization that, although Mubarek was gone, they had not achieved their aims of democracy and freedom. The military took over and began issuing orders to the civilian population, restricting their freedoms and occasionally clashing with them, then, when elections were finally held, many people felt that the results of those elections weren’t indicative of the actual wishes of the people.
The filmmakers literally risked their lives, as much of the footage was taken from sites where the military was attacking civilians. Several of the subjects of the film were wounded in the 2 years of filming during various encounters with the military. The action was certainly dramatic.
The film really fell down because there was no cohesive narrative to tie it all together. We began at a very high point – the deposition of Mubarek, when all the subjects celebrated their first victory and felt that the country had come together to achieve something great. Over the next two hours, though, we went from the emotionally high point of Mubarek’s defeat to the realization that the military leaders were lying to the people and curtailing their freedoms, then to the realization that the revolution had lost its coherent center, then to the point where the Muslim Brotherhood took advantage of the political chaos created by the revolution to step in and seize power. By the end of the film, the people we were following seemed confused and defeated.
I feel that, even in a documentary where you’re filming things that are actually happening and where you may need to film a great deal before you can get a sense of what the “what” really is, you have to have some kind of narrative. Humans, as my own research keep saying, love a pattern. Sadly, war is precisely a breakdown of established patterns, so filming and making sense of warlike events is a special talent. One that, I’m afraid, this director is still perfecting.
Great for understanding what’s going on in Egypt. Certainly thought-provoking for me personally as I equate a lot of what Egyptians are fighting for with a lot of what the Occupy movement is fighting for. We’ll see how it stands up to tomorrow’s offering about Occupy Wall Street.