Originally from NUFEC.com.
The Square details
the recent Egyptian Revolution with moderate success. Director Jehane
Noujaim examines the conflict through several particularly intriguing
revolutionaries, including one from the Muslim Brotherhood who struggles
with the morality of his organization’s pursuits. The film explores
each major event from the initial protests in 2011 until this past
summer from the perspective of these main characters. By focusing on
each character, without pulling back to see the conflict more generally
and historically, it feels a bit chaotic.
This method of tackling the subject prevents the viewer from
developing a broad understanding of the situation by favoring the
specific experience of several people. Noujaim’s choice not to
contextualize the history occurring on screen is frustrating. By never
separating from the immersion with these particular characters, the
experience is puzzling at times for those who haven’t been following the
conflict closely (myself included). Tasha Robinson explained this aspect of the film brilliantly,
highlighting that rather than what is generally expected, Noujaim
provides “…a vivid, impressionistic portrait of the social scene in
Tahir Square, and how street protests gave workaday Egyptians a feeling
of empowerment and ebullience that a succession of oppressive,
disingenuous leaders couldn’t shake.” Ultimately, unlike Tasha, this
approach blocked my ability to engage with the material although more
informed viewers might find this approach invigorating.
The Square is
not the must-see documentary one may have hoped for, but it’s certainly
worth a watch. It’s always valuable to develop a specific human context
for historical events that we grow detached from because of geographic
distance. The Square is playing at the Brattle Theater
for one week only and launching via Netflix on 1/17. If you need the
theatrical environment to keep focus in a less than thrilling
documentary, go to the Brattle, otherwise check this out on Netflix.
Given the Academy’s history of choosing politically relevant
documentaries, I'm not surprised that this was nominated for Best
Documentary Feature this morning.