‘The Square’: Lessons in Organic Revolution

‘The Square’ is NOW PLAYING in New York and as part of DOC NYC on November 17, 2013 @ IFC Center

Jehane Noujaim‘s ‘The Square‘ is a multi dimensional account of the populist Egyptian uprisings having taken place over the past 3 years and is the most clear depiction yet of a struggle so many in the West may not be entirely attune too (albeit, SHOULD be).  The film is a comprehensive look at the metaphysical origins, idealistic detriments and necessary perpetuance needed in this 21st Century ripe with the shackles of old world traditionalism and vast examples of social inequality, spanning far past their “Arab Spring” origins, exposing a worldwide discontent, which hopefully are long from over and even farther from existing outcome acceptability.

The Square‘ follows a sampling of Egyptian activists, beginning with the 2011 overthrow of 30 year dictator Hosni Mubarak, ultimately culminating with the forced removal of hard line conservative, Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi and the state of military rule which resulted (and still envelopes the country). Throughout the film, the lives and risk associated with the fight for social justice, multi ethnic equality and (non arbitrary definitions of) freedom features in the century old desire to build a “new society of conscience“, as well as overdue for the needs and demands of a modern 21st Century, geographic subjectivity or not.

The SquareArmed with nothing more than consumer cameras, social media prowess, Final Cut Pro and YouTube, the inspirational young people who make up this (and most) successful revolutionary movements struggle through multiple forces of adversity, yet remain determined to the courage of their convictions.  Through state driven violence, voter suppression efforts, countless intimidation tactics and the very real threat of imprisonment and torture, the activists featured persevere, giving a contemporary template to organic change by all means necessary.

Khalid Abdalla, is a British-Egyptian actor known for roles in films such as ‘The Kite Runner‘ and ‘United 93‘.  A 3rd generation activist, Abdalla is one of the first to occupy Tahrir Square, eventually spearheading an alternative media center to counter state propaganda.

Magsy Ashour is a Muslim Brotherhood official.  Abducted and tortured under Mubarak, Ashour’s working class roots guide him with faith and perseverance through the most tumultuous of ideological discontent, both then and now.

Ahmed Hassan represents the youthful ideologue of the bunch.  A born storyteller and grassroots revolutionary, Ahmed never waivers from his commitment to a forward thinking future, with respect to past but with emplacement of possibility, he has become iconic of a global movement against traditionalist strangleholds.

Ragia Omran, represents the front lines of human rights with a soft spoken and practical touch.  Ragia puts life and career on the line time after time in her attempt to balance familial fears of safety with her need to fight for the human rights of those who have been (and continue to be) oppressed, regardless of regime.

The SquareRamy Essam, is the creative voice of the revolution.  With a massive following, he becomes its official singer-songwriter providing a soundtrack to necessity.  Writing music for each stage of the fight, Essam struggles through imprisonment, torture and (eventual) escape, putting yet another human face on a peoples struggle.

Aida El Kashef, a filmmaker, set up the first Tahrir tent.  Armed with her Canon EOS, she fights to bring change with hours of powerful footage (including her interview with Ramy Essan, post torture).  As the state media turns the depiction of the protestor from hero to villain, Aida realizes more than ever the power of her cameras objectivity.

This six figures profiled here are but a handful of the thousands who have taken to the streets of Cairo, and consequently the millions who have occupied New York City, Brazil, Bulgaria, Turkey and around the world.  Guided by the even handed eye of acclaimed documentary filmmaker, and Egyptian American Jehane Noujaim, the film spans the spectrum of true democracy focused approach, in the Middle East and around the world.  Sacrificing ideals bigger than individuals, Noujaim offers a metaphysical approach to revolution and social change. Whether a passing shot representing the omnipotence of Pharoah through the great Pyramids, to the understanding (and embracing) of an end result (of which, most media coverage is solely focused) is simply that; a culmination of centuries worth of events.  By allowing audiences to see her subjects put their lives on the line in the face torture, death and imprisonment, she is able to humanize a situation so frequently looked at as a template pushing right of passage for the disenfranchised.  By following the entirety of their journey, not knowing what would come next as history literally unfolds in front of them, Noujaim captures the personal sacrifices that lead to the big picture; the micro and the macro is all experienced within the confines of ‘The Square’.

The Square‘ offers the best look yet at the complexity and chaos of this (and all) revolution.  Without delving too far into the historical complexities specific to Egypt, the basic premise of revolution being a worthy ideological undertaking, yet an incredibly involved, multi-dimensional one, yields an educative aspect for the aspiring aggro-activist (of which there are MANY around the world).  Nowhere in sight is a run of the mill poster of Che Guevara, or the template pushing recreations of movements past; empty oratory and the likes.  ‘The Square’ is real, it is organic and it is necessary.  By capturing such a spectrum of figures, ‘The Square‘ transcends class, ethnicity and subjective truths and replaces them with the power of historical necessity.

– Steve Rickinson 





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