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Removing the black and white from Egyptian struggle

October 23rd, 2013
08:45 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

To read the headlines, Egypt since the ousting of President Mubarak two-and-a-half years ago has been in a hopeless state of constant tumult, divided between Islamists and secularists, the government and the opposition.

A new documentary – “The Square,” a reference to the now-famous Tahrir Square – tries to get beyond that and tell the street-level story of the activists on all sides who have been fighting for change.

“We've been filming in the square – myself and a team of talented filmmakers – for the past three years,” Filmmaker Jehane Noujaim told CNN’s Hala Gorani, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Tuesday.

“There has been a separation and a division,” Noujaim said. “But I think we do have to remember that we have to avoid getting stuck in these binaries, this conversation of it's either the Muslim Brotherhood or the military.”

“What our characters stand for, even our Muslim Brotherhood character, is the fight for a social movement, a change,” she told Gorani. “And it's a founding period in Egypt and we need to look at it that way.”

The film captures the complexity of Tahrir: The army that says it will sacrifice its own blood before firing on protestors, and the army that fires on protestors; the kinship between all different kinds of protestors in Tahrir, and the mass crowds calling for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsy.

“I think it's a very dark time right now,” Noujaim said. “But we've all seen dark times before. Six months after Mubarak stepped down, protesters were being run over by tanks; and people rose up from that again.”

“Nobody ever sees the Martin Luther King or the Gandhi when they've lost everything and when they feel like they've lost,” she said.

Often by necessity, Noujaim acknowledged to Gorani, the news media overly simplifies the Egyptian story.

“And I think that is where the power of a film like this can come in,” she said, “because you can actually understand the complexities of what these characters have dealt with over the past two and a half years.”

All of the characters in her film, she told Amanpour, would say that the “revolution will continue,” and that their efforts thus far had not been in vain.

“I don't think that anybody can take away what happened in January of 2011,” Noujaim said. “A fear was removed and people decided that they were going to reclaim their futures.”


Filed under:  Egypt • Latest Episode
soundoff (27 Responses)
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