Overview: Egypt’s first Oscar-Nominated film, The Square

The Square, is just no geometric figure but has become a symbol of achievement, a symbol of manpower, a symbol of human struggle, a symbol of awakening. Going on for the past 2 and a half years, the fight for the rights and liberation, Tahrir Square has become that and much more. It has earned a repute for itself and its people. It has the whole world awestruck! If Hosni Mubarak’s downfall was seen as the turning point, the world was yet to see the entire picture.

Capturing these series of events, an Egyptian-American director Jehane Naujaim has taken the grief and the pain of the Egyptians across the seven seas and given Egypt a much-deserved status in the Globe through her documentary film, The Square. Having won many awards at various Film Festivals for its unblemished portrayal of the event, The Square is also amongst the first Egyptian films to be nominated at Oscars. Shooting for 1600 hours with no funds in hand, Jehane made the film a success by showing the sequences of events through the eyes of a select few yet distinguished individuals.

The Square, through a few personal and inspirational stories gives an account of the bloodiest battle fought with a weapon called Social Media! The ancient war gets a unique ensemble in the form of young revolutionaries who make use of available instruments to get their message across masses. The cast of the story has a feminist filmmaker – Aida El Kashaf, a Human Rights Activist – Ragia, a vibrant young chap belonging to the working class – Ahmed, a singer-composer who is the voice and a bard behind the revolution – Ramy Essam, a man who was abducted and tortured during the reign of Mubarak-Magdy Ashour and a British-Egyptian actor and filmmaker – Khalid Abdalla. According to the director, she wanted those characters that could surprise the viewers with their challenging story and she says, “They weren’t difficult to find as they were all sleeping in the tents next to me”. (As told to The New York Times)

It is an inevitable thought that shall arise in the mind of every individual as to how the team worked hand-in-hand all the while witnessing history. The story was evolving around them and it was indeed a challenge to shoot this documentary. But nonetheless, brave hearts weren’t deterred by bloodshed; they stuck together through the Tahrir Square Movement to make a documentary which is news-driven, character-driven and equally revolutionary. It was difficult for the team to come to a climax, the reason being, the story was still under development. It was when the team had packed up to head for the Sundance Film Festival when another twist took place. In January 2013, Morsi was although elected yet people found him equally dictatorial and were therefore back on the streets. This prompted the team to re-shoot and change the climax.

Renowned reviewers have celebrated this film with their words. In her review E. Nina Rothe of Huffington Post writes, “In Jehane Naujaim’s documentary, The Square, the Egyptian revolution is finally explained in a clear, wonderfully intimate and non-condescending way.” Many believe it to be emotionally-gripping, lucid and a compassionate journey of hope, courage, treachery and determination. The film takes the viewers on a historical ride showing the removal of the dictator, protest against the military rule and agitation against newly-elected Presidency. RogerEbert.com wrote, “An entrancing and sharply-crafted view of the political changes that have convulsed Egypt since the onset of the Arab Spring.”

The film’s release in India is although not yet final but world cinema-lovers are sure looking forward to Naujaim’s gem of work which is not just about Egypt but about change and how change ensues.

 

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