Jehane Noujaim’s third film The Square tracks the lives of four Egyptian protesters during two years in Tahrir Square, Egypt. The Square covers the fall of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak; the Egyptian Army’s deal with the Muslim Brotherhood; the 2012-13 term of president Mohamed Morsi; and how the protesters interacted with the Egyptian Army and Western media.
Noujaim continues themes from her earlier films including using a small group as a symbol of broader social forces (Startup.com‘s study of the 1995-2000 dotcom crash); and how senior army officials deal with social activist media (Control Room).
The dialogue between activists about the Muslim Brotherhood recalls P.R. Sarkar’s analysis of the Hindu case system articulated by Pakistani futurist Sohail Inayatullah in the Sarkar Game: the Egyptian Army (khsatriya military) deal with the protesters (shudra workers, vipra intellectuals) in a vacuum of enlightened Sadvipran leadership, and in which the Muslim Brotherhood broker deals that affect election outcomes (vaeshya merchants). The Square captures the gap between revolutionary ideals of social illuminism and how these play out amidst different power dynamics, values, and worldviews.
The protesters filmed express a still-forming revolutionary praxis and worldview: they might have benefited from awareness of the late sociologist Charles Tilly’s study of protests and regime responses (Regimes and Repertoires); Gene Sharp’s work in peace studies on nonviolent strategies; and constructivist institutionalism theories in political science on how to transform major social institutions like the government, judiciary, armed forces, and political parties.
The Square hints at unexplored topics that might inform other documentaries on Egypt’s sociopolitical changes. These unexplored topics include: the history and role of Western governments who backed Mubarak’s regime; the Egyptian Secret Police’s targeting of domestic political dissent; political Islamist controversies involving the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; and the CNN Effect’s variability that involves Western media pundits, geopolitical flashpoints, and human rights challenges.