The Square Screen 16 articles

The Square

2013

The Square Poster
  • As actor-activist Khalid Abdalla (The Kite Runner) explains on-screen, it won’t be possible to gauge the effects of the events in Egypt for decades—which leaves any filmmaker who wants to make a documentary on the subject in a bind. At a certain point, a movie has to be finished and released, especially if it might spur change. But it doesn’t seem like this story has a clear upshot yet—or at least a cutoff that would allow Noujaim to focus the footage more clearly.

  • There’s a sense in which The Square feels incomplete, like the first part of a much longer effort. It’s hard to blame Noujaim for presenting it to the public now, but the decision to do so is primarily political, not artistic.

  • Director Noujaim's handheld footage amid clashing protestors and military, which at one point includes the cameraman suffering taser assaults himself, has a visceral intensity that captures the lethal brutality that its subjects, and millions of others, potentially faced during these demonstrations.

  • Made up almost entirely of powerful front-line footage, the film provides a valuable on-the-ground glimpse into the lofty dreams and sobering realities of the Arab Spring.

  • An entrancing and sharply crafted view of the political changes that have convulsed Egypt since the onset of the Arab Spring, "The Square," by Egyptian-American documentarian Jehane Noujaim ("Control Room"), follows a number of individuals as they negotiate recurrent cycles of revolutionary hope succeeded by turmoil that sometimes turns harrowing and lethal. The result shows the human stakes and often punishing difficulties of challenging entrenched powers and interests.

  • The movie stays on the secular liberals’ side, all the way through this summer’s ouster of the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi. Some key points, it must be said, get glossed over: for instance, that the election that installed Morsi as president was boycotted by many liberals... “The Square” isn’t a nuanced or complete view of Egyptian politics, but it’s an enthralling view of fervent reformists, willing to go back to Tahrir as often as it takes.

  • The actions of a media collective become legible only as individual initiative. And as valuable as The Square is, this individual focus becomes its downfall again and again. Making a comprehensible story out of the chaos of the ongoing Egyptian Revolution has meant reducing it to the efforts of a few exceptionally talented speakers and artists.

  • Aside from being impressed at its even-handedness in covering the events in Cairo that have led to the fall of not one, but two regimes since January 2011 – and counting, I was also very impressed – almost too impressed – by the quality of its cinematography.

  • [...A crucial,] immersive, and exhilarating tale of the fight against oppression, which proves that the Egyptian Revolution didn't end in 2011... There's plenty of distressing and shockingly timely footage (some shot as recently as August) that is rarely-to-never aired by American news outlets, but it doesn't take a bullet or tear-gas pellet whizzing by the camera to frame the film as a provocative indictment of media negligence...

  • The key image here has to be the mural that Noujaim returns to after each significant event, its content overwritten and modified as the tenor of the struggle shifts. From the first warm flush of communal unity against oppression to the spider webbing cracks that emerge as each side pushes toward its own vision of the future, this captures every aspect of a revolution, dreams ceding to practical concerns and questions of betrayal.

  • Alternately despairing and hopeful, the film’s uncertain finale — after all, the violence in Egypt continues to this day — just adds to its poignancy.

  • No one would questione the importance of this geographical meeting place, but the way Noujaim uses it as an anchor to examine the hopes, fears, highs and lows of those at the eye of the storm lifts this doc a step above your average fly-on-the-wall journalism. The Square offers more than just pictures of a revolution; it lets you into the mind-set of those fighting for their future, and that makes all the difference.

  • The characters that Noujaim selects for The Square prove to be more than symbolic, or bricks in the wall of the movement—they are major players in it, brainstorming ways of expressing and popularizing their goals simultaneous to the film employing them to do the same. What this does for the film is elevate it beyond slice of life portraiture, making it rather a firsthand, ground-level account of action, of evolving thought and strategy...

  • Two words uttered in the dark—"What happened?"—open The Square, Jehane Noujaim's powerful, exacting depiction of Egypt's struggle for meaningful change... The Square moves quickly, its reams of raw footage complemented by fleet and skillful editing.

  • It should be said from the start that The Square is complicated, argumentative, and incongruously beautiful to behold, thanks to the astonishing camera work of Mohammad Hamdy, Noujaim’s director of photography. Hamdy’s tilt-shift style gives the film a striking and peculiar sense of depth, accentuating Noujaim’s obvious affection for the architecture and urban texture of Cairo while continually refocusing our attention on her three main characters...

  • It's an extremely harrowing documentary, particularly in the way that the drama oscillates between the extreme elation of collective action helping to topple a military dictator, and the bone-shattering nightmares of running street battles and the realisation that everything you previously laid your life on the line for was for naught.

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