With a sharp sense of urgency, this documentary is shot by protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square to give us a real sense of the revolution still playing out in Egypt three years later. And the intimate approach helps us understand the deeper issues in a conflict in which people fight for freedom and feel betrayed by the military that should be protecting them.
Most of what we see is through the eyes of young activist Ahmed Hassan, who originally took to the streets in January 2011, joining hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding a democratic solution to Mubarek's 30-year tyranny, which was backed (and armed) by Western governments. Protest leaders include the charismatic actor Abdalla (The Kite Runner) and gifted musician Essam, and the crowd is a mixture of Christians, Muslims and non-religious people demonstrating peacefully together. When Mubarek steps down, they are naturally jubilant, but things quickly turn sour as factions develop, turning on each other when the new military government cracks down brutally.
Watching this footage as shot by the people in the square is pretty harrowing, especially when the police are firing guns and rolling tanks right into crowds of non-violent protesters. Filmmaker Noujaim lays out the events chronologically, with brisk editing that draws in news footage from around the world. But it's Hassan who holds our attention, as we watch him change from an optimistic, bright-eyed teen into a battle-scarred warrior. As his friends are tortured and killed, his gentle tenacity is seriously inspirational.
The film also gives us a sharp sense of the chain of events surrounding the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, which went on to win the first elections then was outlawed and thrown out of power after President Morsi became just as oppressive as Mubarek. Or maybe they just fell out with the still-powerful military. Watching all of this happen through Hassan's eyes makes it profoundly emotional. So even when the film seems to drag on a bit and repeat itself, we can't help but be haunted by the thought that this could happen anywhere.
Run time: 95 mins
In Theaters: Friday 10th January 2014
Box Office USA: $88.6k
Distributed by: Participant Media
Production compaines: Roast Beef Productions, Noujaim Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
IMDB: 8.2 / 10
Director: Jehane Noujaim
Producer: Karim Amer
Starring: Khalid Abdalla as Himself, Magdy Ashour as Himself, Ramy Essam as Himself, Ahmed Hassan as Himself, Aida Elkashef as Herself
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