The Square

Movie Review #862


By Alexander Diminiano


Released October 25, 2013 (limited)
Documentary, Drama, History, News
Not Rated (contains footage of actual massacre, footage of actual abuse, disturbing content, religious themes, profanity)
108 minutes

Two thoughts cross my mind when I sit down to review “The Square”. One is: How exactly am I supposed to review this? The other comes to me with desperation: I need to review this. “The Square” is not a film. It’s not a documentary. It’s a preservation of the recent past. It will soon become a record of the distant past, and it is as pertinent that we preserve this as it is that we preserve, gosh, “Citizen Kane”. This is not a work of fiction. “The Square” tells the cold, hard, bloody, paralyzing truth.

This is also an example of why accompanying reviews with a grade is a very elementary concept. My grade of three and a half stars for “The Square” is from an analytical perspective. This is not a film that asks for analysis, but it shall, as it suffers from what many documentaries of all ilks suffer: creative license. That’s a delicate, delicate right to have as a documentarian. The ability to twist the truth can take nothing more than editing, and with just a little of it, you can sway your audience to believe what you want them to believe. However, I feel like we get too much of a heroic perspective in “The Square”, a film that candidly captures the Egyptian revolt at Tahrir Square in 2011. Director Jehane Noujaim depicts some of the most shocking footage I have ever seen, but it is often stifled by scenes that show a world at peace. It’s all right to see parading or guitar playing once or twice, but too much can (and does) ruin the effect of this footage.

I’ve stated already that “The Square” must be kept alive and recognized as an extraordinary moment in the history of film. It is devastating and real, containing footage from Egypt’s January 25 Revolution. That such footage actually exists is both horrifying and remarkable. We watch from the point-of-view of a single protestor as millions of men and women all across the state of Egypt demand the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. Throughout the revolution–which lasted 17 days–846 civilians died, 6,467 more were injuried, and at least 12,000 were arrested. Such statistics are actually on camera are far fewer, but the film is still very difficult to watch. We watch “The Square” and suddenly realize just how inhuman and cruel the world is around us. We realize how lucky we are to have every moment that we aren’t faced with such savagery.


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