Friday, November 8, 2013

The Square

It pains me to hear "The Square" talked about as a documentary Oscar front-runner, because to me "Blackfish" is the most important and moving documentary in years.

"The Square" is a ground-level immersion in the past two years of protests at Tahrir Square in Cairo: against Hosni Mubarak, then the military regime that replaced him, and finally the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood politician Mohamed Morsi (now on criminal trial after himself being deposed by the military). Egyptian director Jehane Noujaim, who made the excellent 2001 documentary "," has strong reportorial instincts, getting herself into front-row-center position and keeping the cameras rolling as the self-labeled "revolutionaries" come together, in some cases come apart along religious lines, and come under the boot (and nightstick, and tank) of oppression by the army.

What's missing is the context - and in some cases some basic information - that would give meaning to the imagery. You don't come away from "The Square" with an understanding of how Mubarak came to power and retained it from three decades, a significantly enhanced knowledge of the regional power that is the Muslim Brotherhood, or any idea how the protesters plan to translate their newfound strength into the viable constitutional democracy they hope to establish. Even self-appointed spokesmen such as "The Kite Runner" actor Khalid Abdalla spout platitudes about bread and freedom, while those risking their safety in the square seem resigned to a political life spent in opposition, if no less energized for it. "The Square" might have worked better as a documentary short subject; at 104 minutes, it's often highly redundant and at times even boring.

No comments:

Post a Comment