“The Square” sparks controversy, flashbacks to Egyptian Revolution

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Join the Seattle Globalist Thursday for a screening of The Square, and Q & A with director Jehane Noujaim.

Three years ago, on January 24th 2011, I was sitting with friends at a nice restaurant in Cairo, talking about the demonstrations that were supposed to take place the next day.

I remember predicting aloud that, like always, a small number of people would show up at the square, demonstrate, get arrested and that would be that. Nothing had really changed in Egyptian politics for decades. Why would they now?

By 10pm the next day there were still people in Tahrir square, in spite of a tear gas attack around noon, and I was headed to the first demonstration of my life.

For the next 18 days we saw a version of Egypt and Egyptians we never knew existed. There were so many different people in the square, and they all had this look in their eyes. They – we – were all looking for something: A better future, a better life… a better Egypt.

Jehane Noujaim’s Oscar nominated documentary “The Square” tells this story, our story; the story of a revolution.

The film debuted on Netflix last week and there will be a special screening and Q & A with the director tomorrow night at Sundance Cinemas in Seattle, sponsored by One America, The Metropolitan Democratic Club and The Seattle Globalist.

Before watching the movie on Friday I put my red notebook next to me in case I wanted to take any notes for this review.

But for the next 95 minutes I just sat there, paralyzed. “The Squar”e captures the emotional essence of the past three years in a way that is just breathtaking. It follows a diverse group of characters through the major events centered on Tahrir Square, and gives a taste of how it felt to be one people rising up against a dictator.

But the film also shows how hard it is to make a revolution, and even more so, to rebuild a nation afterward.

Now, three years later, we have been through a lot. Many people died and the once united nation is not united anymore. The revolution is not over yet (or so I’d like to believe). Egyptians are as divided as ever on where our country is (and should be) headed.

And they’re similarly divided on this film.

It seems Noujaim stepped into a mine field with Egyptians in taking on this topic — even though it really feels like the film was made for a non-Egyptian audience.

Since it was released on Netflix I’ve been watching different reactions flying to and fro, mainly on Facebook. The reactions range from praise, to distance and indifference, to critiques that it exaggerates what really happened, to flat out anger.

Regardless what you think, the movie is a very important document that shows the struggle, the hopes and the development of a nation trying to find its way towards a better future. Everyone who’s interested in that future should see “The Square” for themselves and form their own opinion.

Tickets for the special screening of “The Square” on Thursday, Jan. 23rd at 7:45 are available through Sundance Cinemas. The screening is 21+ and will feature a Q & A with the director and a panel of local Egyptian-Americans and Filmmakers. More info here.

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