Khalid Abdalla

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The Square Review


Excellent

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.

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Green Zone Review


Extraordinary
Based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran's true account Imperial Life in the Emerald City, this film never pauses for breath throughout a story set in the weeks following the 2003 invasion of Baghdad. It's provocative, involving and utterly gripping.

Miller (Damon) is a military officer charged with locating weapons of mass destruction, but every site he visits is a dead end. When he voices doubts about the intelligence, he gets in trouble with the Pentagon chief (Kinnear).

On the other hand, the CIA director (Gleeson) is sympathetic, and encourages him to dig around. So with the help of a local translator (Abdalla), Miller dives in. And he's quickly caught between two factions in his own government as he searches for an Iraqi general (Naor) in hiding.

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Green Zone Trailer


Watch the trailer for Green Zone.

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The Kite Runner Review


OK
Practically no other nation's modern history has been so rife with grief and shattered expectations as that of Afghanistan; a fact utilized to maximum effect by Marc Foster in his adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's book club blockbuster The Kite Runner. Starting in the relatively chaos-free years before the Soviet invasion and concluding in the middle of the Taliban's theocratic lockdown, the film manages the difficult task of tracking massive historical upheavals while keeping tightly focused on the people forced to live through such tumultuous changes.

The character who ties the whole narrative together is Amir, a spoiled brat of a kid who turns into a spoiled writer as an adult only to grudgingly submit himself to the rigors of becoming a hero near the conclusion. In the mid-1970s, the young Amir (Zekiria Ebrahimi) lives with his prosperous father, or Baba, in a nice house in Kabul. Amir lives a pretty decent and sheltered life, his best friend, the fiercely loyal Hassan (played with emphatic nobility by Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada), is the son of the family's head servant, and will do practically anything Amir wants. His Baba is a proudly educated and modern man, with his jazz records, turtlenecks, bottles of liquor, and well-kept Mustang; the last particularly beloved by the Steve McQueen-worshipping boys. Amir and Hassan are an excellent team when it comes to the fascinating Afghan take on kite-flying, where pairs of boys get into high-altitude duels, trying to cut the strings of their opponents kites (the sport was later banned when the Taliban came to power).

Continue reading: The Kite Runner Review

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