I am not cool enough to hang out at Sundance every year, but I am cool enough to have friends who do, and one of them tell me that there was a lot of “buzz” last year about “The Square.” I kept hearing about it, but was unable to attend any screenings.
As of Friday, Jan. 17, the film is now available streaming on Netflix.
The Square is an Egyptian-American documentary film by Jehane Noujaim (who directed Control Room). It won the Audience Award for World Cinema in the documentary category and has been nominated for an academy award.
The film was released in 2013 after two years of filming ifirst the street protests against Mubarak, then the protests against the interim government. When people returned to the streets to protest against the government of President Morsi, Noujaim returned to Cairo to take additional footage and change the ending of the film.
What arises is an amazing and poignant tale of struggle, as each successive government continues to attempt to use the same tools of oppression, and protesters return again and again, to demand a more socially just government.
Will the Egyptian constitutional referendum pass? And if so, what will it mean? And what comes next?
Who better to answer such questions than the leading editorialists of the Middle East’s top newspapers? Here’s a brief review of four of them, two Egyptian and two from neighboring places.
Al-Ahram, which has returned to its traditional role as a slavish supporter of whatever regime happens to be in power, assures us through an editorial by Gamil Afifi entitled “Egypt is moving forward and the dogs are barking“ that the passage of the referendum is an assured thing because “Our great people” will never fail “to confront those terrorist elements” who want to “turn back the country through a dark tunnel into the eras of ignorance” “under the slogan of religion” but “religion, God and His Prophet have nothing to do with this group.”
I use all those quotations because this editorial is so overwritten one almost wonders if Mr. Afifi is secretly laughing at his audience. The conclusion gives you a feeling for the style of the thing:
Today and tomorrow, Egyptians go to the polls to vote on a referendum approving the newly-drafted constitution.
This will be the third constitutional referendum since protests forced Mubarak to step down in 2011.
During the first referendum in March 2011, a boycott of “No” vote was widely urged by the groups whose protests had led to the revolution because they felt the new limitations it posed for the president were insufficient. This campaign was more or less successful, because while the measure passed 77-23, only 44 percent of the population came out to vote.
The military leadership did not get the mandate they had claimed the referendum would give them. When General Mamduh Shaheen tried to delegitimize the anti-government protests that continued throughout Cairo by claiming “The people chose SCAF,” his claim was laughed off.
A similar thing happened with the constitutional reforms rushed through by the Muslim Brotherhood dominated government in 2012. In spite of reports of sheykhs thundering from the minbar that the new constitution was sanctioned by God, only 33% of voters bothered to turn out, and those that did passed the referendum by a vote of only 64-36.