January 9, 2014 5:18 pm

Film review – The Square

Footage from cameras, phones and webcams captures the tumult in Tahrir Square
Demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square in July 2013©Getty Images

Demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square in July 2013

Recent Egyptian history is a tale told by a video, or tens of thousands of them, signifying nothing. Discuss. The alternative view, presented in The Square, is that the cumulative recorded tumults of Tahrir Square (on cameras, phones, webcams, TV newsreels) signify absolutely everything. You just need the patience to collect and construe them, as Jehane Noujaim’s documentary attempts, from the first footage of anti-Mubarak street scuffles to the helicopter shot of the millions-strong anti-Morsi rally, here called the biggest demonstration the world has ever seen.

The film’s potential weakness turns into its strength. Noujaim had to keep updating. Who thought, in 2011, that one tyrant initialled “M”, and his overthrow, would be followed swiftly by another? The pace of history, at once precipitate and open-ended, is the story here. The very term “revolution” denotes a turning process: it isn’t a button push or a light switch. It will wheel away for as long as it needs, and the chaos and the courage called up in the process are movingly caught here.

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Nigel Andrews


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