The Square

The revolution, televised

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

With props to Gil Scott-Heron and his 1971 spoken-word classic The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

Because one of the lessons of The Square—Jehane Noujaim’s unblinking, Oscar-nominated documentary about the mass gatherings in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011 and the roiling changes they set into motion—might be that even when the revolution looks like its being globally televised, it really isn’t being captured in all its aching, dogged, vulnerable complexity.

Those mass protests led to the February 2011 resignation of longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. But Noujaim’s film attests to how quickly joyous weeping in the streets gave way to sectarian arguments over the army’s role and fissures in promising alliances of Christians and Muslims, men and women, secular Arabs and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Noujaim’s approach is cinéma vérité, but The Square doesn’t feel like fly-on-the-wall observations. It’s more intimate due to the ubiquity of new technologies and apps like Twitter and cell- phone cameras. Hurrah, the selfies that matter.

Which doesn’t mean The Square is a rough-hewn outing. Noujaim has made a visually inviting film, rife with revealing, earnest interviews but also rich with strong images and the necessary moments of emptier space and the silences that help us learn from them.

Central protagonists include British-Egyptian actor Khalid Abdalla (The Kite Runner); Muslim Brotherhood activist Magdy Ashour; human-rights lawyer Ragia Omran; the revolution’s troubadour, Ramy Essam; street-tempered 20-something Ahmed Hassan; and media maverick Aida El Kashef, also in her 20s.

Although Noujaim interviews military officials, much of the movie is spent with “the people”—the activists, as well as others who believe in a “society of conscience.”

Only at times one gets the eerie sense that being with the people is not the same as being in the company of those making power plays for the Arab nation’s future.

In January of 2013, The Square won the audience prize at the Sundance Film Festival. In July of that year, Mohamed Morsi’s short-lived presidency came to an end. The filmmakers returned to Egypt afterward because events worked against anything like “closure.”

“We knew that the story was not over, so we returned to the streets to capture what would become the second part of the story,” said the filmmaker in a statement.

“The Square” provides cautionary as well as aspirational lessons. It’s ridiculous, yet not entirely false, to venture that ousting Mubarak was the easy part. Nurturing and sustaining democracy remains the challenging dream. Noujaim’s characters prove to be engaging stewards of that vision.

More Film...
London Road
A musical murder mystery

The techniques of verbatim theater go back decades, to at least the 1950s, when young German theater troupes would reenact complicated court cases word for word onstage. Even earlier, in the United States, the WPA paid for a form of this performance with its “Living Newspapers,” in…

more »
The Magnificent Seven
Another day, another remake

The big difference between the new version of The Magnificent Seven and the revered 1960 feature is the ethnic background of the main characters. The titular seven in director Antoine Fuqua’s take are a diverse bunch, while the ruthless villain of the piece is no longer a Mexican bandito…

more »
Bridget Jones’s Baby
Renee gets a rebirth

Hapless London-based media type Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) returns to the big screen after a 12-year break to battle unexpected pregnancy, 20-something hipsters and, once more, the perils of live TV in Bridget Jones’s Baby. With our heroine now a successful single producer in her…

more »
Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

A gold medal standard


Connected by climate


The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Love, Loss & What I Wore

7:30pm|Heiner Auditorium

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bellingham Bay Marathon

7:30am|Gooseberry Point

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Veterans Breakfast

8:00am|VFW Post 1585

Starry Night Chamber Orchestra

3:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

I, Angus

4:00pm|Village Books

Art of Jazz

4:00pm|BAAY Theatre

Sunday Night Fusion

7:00pm|Presence Studio

Deobrat Mishra


Culture Shock

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Standup Comedy Showcase

8:30pm|The Shakedown

Artifacts Wine Bar Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
A gold medal standard


Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

We Grow Market

3:00pm|Northwest Youth Services

Yoga for Outdoor Fitness


Candidate Forum

6:30pm|PUD Building

Cooking with Sea Vegetables

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

The Happy Elf Auditions

7:00pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Open Mic

7:00pm|Village Books


8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library


9:30pm|Green Frog

Artifacts Wine Bar Andrew Subin
Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

A gold medal standard


Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

The Happy Elf Auditions

7:00pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Making Miso

4:00pm|Skagit Valley Food Co-op

Bingo in Blaine

6:00pm|Blaine Senior Center

All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Not If But When

6:00pm|Burlington Public Library

Wonton and Char Siu

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Roving Cocktail Party

6:30pm|Gretchen's Kitchen

Bellingham Reads

6:30pm|Bellingham Public Library

Eagle Presentation

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Blackfish Prophecy

7:00pm|Village Books

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Beginning Square Dance

7:00pm|Ten Mile Grange

Monastery Talk

7:00pm|Bellingham Shambhala Meditation Center

see our complete calendar »

Northwood Steak and Crab Everybody’s Store Andrew Subin Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Swinomish 2016 Village Books Bellingham Farmer’s Market Artifacts Wine Bar CW BOB 2016