Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Let's Review Something: The Square

Last year I decided that I was going to make an active effort to see more documentaries.  They are the one medium of film that I usually avoid, but because I don’t like them but because there are so many other films I feel the need to cram into a year that I never have or make the time for them.  This year, because of all the hype and buzz surrounding so many of the Oscar hopefuls, I really wanted to see as many as I could.

There were a lot of experimental documentaries out this year, covering a wide range of subjects.  From reenactments to go-pro madness, from real life mysteries to gay rights and untimely deaths.

2013 was no shortage on real life being presented as art.

‘The Square’ was one of those docs that was touted as a real gem.  While the year’s awards seemed to be shelled out to two primary candidates (‘The Act of Killing’ and ‘Stories We Tell’) Oscar seemed to center on a few surprising candidates, including this one.  I actually crammed this viewing in a few days before the Oscar ceremony and was astounded with how powerful it was, and how moved I was by the presentation of material that I was, until that moment, unfamiliar with.

I am not a very world-wise person.  I hate the news.  I never watch it because I hate the state of the world.  Yes, I am aware of things, but I don’t educate myself too deeply on matters that are there to depress me.  The state of affairs worldwide is tragic and while I would never advocate ignorance (for how can we change the world if we sheepishly avoid understanding it) I have to admit that I do not actively choose to brush up on politics or on the political strife in other lands.  Because of that, ‘The Square’ really took me by surprise.  In fact, I had to watch the film twice in order to really get the gist of all that was going on and really get the sense of the film’s message and the tragedy that was being broken down for the audience.

Of all the documentaries I’ve seen this year, this is by far the most important (though not the best).

‘The Square’ tells of the political unrest in Egypt and how civilians attempted to fight for their rights, overthrowing their ruthless leader only to find themselves in an unchanged environment with new political enemies and the need to fight once again.  By staging revolutionary sit-ins in the public square, this large group of people took over the nation, the media and the government by declaring their demands and attempting to use persistence to weed out those unconcerned with general wellbeing and build a new society for themselves and for their children.  Sadly, we don’t always get what we ask for, and sometimes even when we do, it isn’t without a huge price.

The sad reality is that conflict portrayed on screen is not resolved, and when the cameras stopped rolling it was obvious that the unrest these civilians live with on a daily basis will take quite a few more tears to settle.

By shifting from multiple vantage points and following different protesters, ‘The Square’ becomes an extremely well rounded documentary that uncovers so much about a very intimate and explosive subject.  By fleshing out the varied political communities, from the governmental leaders to the Brotherhood that made itself a part of these protests, to exploring the celebrities who attached themselves to the cause and faced peril and danger because of it, this film reaches deeper than one may presume. 

Coming from a man who sadly knew nothing about the subject beforehand, I consider myself educated.

I give this a solid A.  It is extremely powerful and a film that I do not think should be missed.  This didn't win the Oscar, but it did make history being not only the first Kickstarter funded film to be nominated for an Oscar but also the first Netflix released film to be Oscar nominated.  That in itself is pretty awesome.  That being said, it really should have beaten '20 Feet from Stardom'.


  1. I really need to check this out, along with 20 Feet from Stardom and Cutie and the Boxer. Hopefully, I can catch up on some of these as I draw nearer to completing my ballot series.

    1. I tell you, it's been quite the blessing discovering docs for the first time this year.