The Square Review – Arab Spring and Egypt's Fight For Freedom and Democracy

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“The Square,” the Oscar nominated documentary from Director Jehane Noujaim and Producer Karim Amer, offers a first person and front row seat to one of the most pivotal moments in modern history since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“The Square,” documents a core group of Egyptians who seize this moment, which became known as the Arab Spring movement an unprecedented wave of democracy that spread across the Arab Peninsula and resulted in a domino effect as one regime after another fell, to unite the people and demand change.

There are several interesting elements of “The Square” and the assistance the global media played in perpetuating the regime changes.

“The Square,” is unique in that the film, without ever speaking the words, highlights the wide spread use of social media and the availability and effects of instant global access which encouraged the grass roots protesters as they gained support from all corners of the world and the global media which moved immediately to publicize the mass protests.  

Egypt is a strategic country and for the past thirty years seen as an ally to the United States. The removal of Hosni Mubarak, singularly orchestrated by the people, began an unsettling time for all Middle Eastern neighbors and allies.

I felt it necessary to separate myself from the documentary and the movement: The movement and the fact that it amassed so many people and initiated a wave of democracy that will be forever known as Arab Spring has earned a rightful place in history.

“The Square,” in and of itself, is boring. Maybe that is due to media saturation.  With that said, it is also important to add, “The Square” has many elements that make it singularly, in moments, interesting.

Social Media truly became the dominant participant in the Arab Spring and it is obvious in the documentation of the Egyptian protests.  That fact can and should be used to further debate on social media and the reduction of the world community.

At the point of violence, the familiar blue screen from handheld devices, mobiles, cell phones, are visible and recording and instantly appearing on Facebook, YouTube, Skyped out to news organizations, the Arab Spring represents the first real global confrontation and documentation that shows the citizen becoming the front lines war correspondent.

 The wave of democracy and those who championed the regime change had no idea what they were doing. It is obvious they had no idea they would get their wish. The plan wasn’t in place and I think when Mubarak resigned, the people, and clearly this core of activists, were unsure of the next step.

It was obvious that even in the 21st century gender inequality was still very much an issue even in a modern westernized city such as Cairo.

One scene clearly reveals the depth of generational inequality that is still very present and accepted. With the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, a single female explained that if the Egyptian people still had the same party members in place, Mubarak may leave but his clone or cookie cutter associate will fill his place, which is no real change. She was dismissed and her opinion negated.

When a male leader of the same core group stated her exact opinion it was welcomed, understood, pondered, thought upon, discussed intelligently and became the foundation for global discourse.

The film seemed to be cyclical, and I know it was not recycled film just recycled action, of this uprising escalating into another rise or faction or dissension, escalating into another, confrontation.

I understood the ache of the activists, I felt the same, put me out of my misery and end this. Liberate me, please.

The politics are bothersome also, which is where it needs to again be separated. “The Square” is clearly, without question, about politics. It is difficult to separate the two. And it reduces to children throwing a tantrum, getting what they want and deciding they really want something else and throwing the same tantrum again. Why? Because they know how to push the global buttons for media, superpowers and governing bodies to show up and calm the situation until the unstable government decides it isn’t worth the headache.

Honestly, neither is the film. And this in no way discounts the importance of the push for democracy. I wholeheartedly support the quest of freedom and equality for all people.

“The Square” is an award winning documentary having taken the top prize the 2013 Audience Award Winner at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival and the 2013 People’s Choice Doc Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. “The Square” open January 3, 2014 at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

 “The Square,” is playing in select cities. Check your local listings.

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