The Square

Feb 20, 2014

The Square makes sense of the warring factions in Egypt's recent revolution.

The Square

Grade: A-

Director: Jehane Noujaim (

Cast: Khalid Abdalla (Kite Runner), Magdy Ashour

Rating: NR

Runtime: 95 min.

by John DeSando

Himself - Revolutionary: “We're not looking for a leader as much as we're looking for a conscience . . . . If we are able to create this conscience within the society, we'll be able to find a good president.”

And so a revolution goes—not a coherent plan but a passion for democratic equality and justice. The Square squarely hits the historical details about the people’s revolution in Egypt in Cairo’s Tahrir Square from 2011-2013.

As the Egyptian proletariat protest and dethrone President Hosni Mubarak, remove the military, and install Mohamed Morsi, nothing is as they wanted it.  Each time, even now, produces another repressive regime while the people hope for freedom.

Acclaimed director Jehane Noujaim (Sundance award for consistently shows the protesters’ point of view, in a remarkably consistent tone that is neither preachy nor emotionally removed.  She reveals the frustration of the revolutionaries, who willingly give their lives for their ideals but still end up imprisoned by the ruling elite, whom the revolutionaries were instrumental in installing.

Noujaim does not make a judgment; rather she shows the complexities of the revolutionaries’ motives and strategies without predicting the future. The doc puts in perspective the four major components: Muslim Brotherhood, ruling parties, military, and commoners, and emphasizing the irony of this review’s opening quote.  While seeking a conscience, Egyptians seem to miss the importance of a charismatic leader (Che Guevera? Abraham Lincoln? MLK? See above quote).

Their quest for “conscience” exposes the weakness of the doc as well: Missing a compelling protagonist in a revolution and a documentary leads to a tedious repetition of events without the umbrella of a defining leader with an incendiary philosophy. But that imperfection leads to a realistic depiction of revolution, whose ideals Westerners can easily identify with:

Himself - Revolutionary: “The leaders play on top. The people pay the price for everything. The people always pay the price.”

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at