The Square: Personalizing the Egyptian Revolution

The Square

It’s not often that I tell anyone that they absolutely must see a movie.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done so in my life. I’m just not a big movie person and usually don’t rush out to see the latest film hitting the theaters.

The Square was different.

As soon as I heard about it and as soon as I heard that World Chicago (an organization for which I am on the Young Professionals Board) was partnering to show a screening of the film, I knew I had to see it.

As many of you know, I visited Egypt in 2008. I only spent two and a half weeks there, but I had an amazing time and I swore I would return someday to visit everything I missed. And when I left, I promised my tour manager, Shady, that when I returned home, I would tell people that they need to visit Egypt. Exactly three years later, I was glued to my computer, watching coverage of the revolution on Al-Jazeera as Snowmageddon hit Chicago (and yes, I watched Al-Jazeera because I didn’t think CNN or the other cable news channels in the US were doing it justice). And I followed along closely as Shady shared updates on Facebook as everything unfolded.

The Square is the story of that revolution, starting in January 2011 and continuing today.  It takes you into the lives of several of the protestors: Khalid, a foreign-born Egyptian actor; Magdy, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was tortured under Mubarak’s regime; Ahmed, a regular guy-turned-revolutionary from a working class neighborhood; Ramy, the unofficial singer-songwriter of the revolution; and Aida, a fiery young woman who set up the first tent in Tahir Square.  You hear their stories, their motivations, their hopes and their desires. You watch as they occupy Tahrir Square day in and day out. You follow them as they run from police bullets. You listen as they cheer Mubarak’s downfall and celebrate the unity of Muslims and Christians to bring about the revolution, proudly claiming they are all Egyptians. You see everything that the mainstream media glossed over or never bothered to show in the first place.

Sure, the story is told primarily from one point of view, but it provides insight into the ongoing revolution that you just don’t get by watching CNN or BBC. And yes, it is ongoing. One of the points that resonated the most for me throughout the film was the idea that the events of the last three years are just the beginning. Democracy doesn’t happen overnight and you can see the protestors move from a feeling of victory after they unseat Mubarak in 2011 to feeling like they haven’t won yet, but are continuing to make progress after they unseat Morsi in 2013.

You also gain a better appreciation for why they felt Morsi must go, despite being the country’s first democratically elected president.  The Western media seemed to characterize the events in the summer of 2013 as a blow to democracy in Egypt, when really, it was just another step on a long path that will hopefully get them there. We in the United States are quick to forget that our democracy did not develop overnight and it did not come about without bloodshed.

I could go on and on but really, you just need to watch it for yourself. Visit The Square website for more information about screenings around the world.

Have you seen The Square? What did you think?


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