Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
An entrancing and sharply crafted view of the political changes that have convulsed Egypt since the onset of the Arab Spring, "The Square," by Egyptian-American documentarian Jehane Noujaim ("Control Room"), follows a number of individuals as they negotiate recurrent cycles of revolutionary hope succeeded by turmoil that sometimes turns harrowing and lethal. The result shows the human stakes and often punishing difficulties of challenging entrenched powers and interests.
Unlike Stefano Savona's superb 2011 doc "Tahrir," which focused on the heady times surrounding the ouster of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, Noujaim's film also covers the two and a half years since. (After a version of "The Square" was shown this year at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award, Noujaim returned to Egypt and filmed through the summer, capturing the turbulence that accompanied the Egyptian Army's ouster of Mubarak's popularly elected successor, Mohammad Morsi. The film being released this week concludes with that very recent and dramatic footage.)
Of the geographic center of Noujaim's film, someone remarks, "Tahrir is symbolic land." That's for sure. It seems that this Cairo roundabout, a rallying point for protests and flashpoint for violent confrontations throughout "The Square," symbolizes the convergence of forces that contest to transform Egypt.
And not only does the square resemble a circle, but another geometric figure, the triangle, more accurately describes those counter-posed forces—the Army, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the people (i.e., politically engaged Egyptians who don't belong to the other two groups).