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The Square

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 86th Annual Academy Awards

The heavily promoted, Netflix-endorsed documentary “The Square” is a very compelling watch, and it’s easy to determine why. For one thing, it chronicles the volatile and violent Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and its Tahrir Square focal point. Next, there is the ubiquitous presence of recognizable British-Eqyptian actor Khalid Abdalla(“United 93”, “The Kite Runner”)as one of the chief protesters against the Hosni Mubarak regime, and its subsequent corrupt replacement. Also, there is the sure hand of documentary director Jehane Noujaim(“Startup.com”, “Control Room”), who exhibits a measured confidence with the abundance of material in her possession. “The Square” never gets too unwieldy, and it’s trajectory is mostly straightforward and uncomplicated. I guess my only complaint would be(as rich and vital as the film is)is that we’ve grown somewhat accustomed to these types of exposes of dictatorial governments—and the style of filmmaking Ms. Noujaim employs, doesn’t exactly raise the bar. But there’s really no denying the power of the footage presented, and its clean execution. The focus is centered on a diverse group of activists, and their roles in the government versus civilian clashes. Brutality and its aftermath is shown repeatedly, and the issues at hand are explained and repeated often. The point is driven home beautifully in this latest essay of the gap between the haves and the have-nots. There are fleeting victories and multiple setbacks, and throughout the demonstrations many of the activists are severely injured or killed. “The Square” is urgently current and offers us updates right into 2013. I think that “The Act of Killing”, and a couple of other 2013 documentaries(one of them a fellow nominee)are just a tad superior, but “The Square” is certainly a visceral education—and pretty damn good.     Grade:  A-

next review up:  “Cutie and the Boxer”

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