On the Radar
For many international viewers, the story of the Egyptian Revolution seemed to end once longtime dictator President Hosni Mubarak, who stepped down following massive protests in Tahrir Square in 2011, was replaced with the democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi.
But the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Square” shows that Morsi’s election was only the beginning. The film tells the story of the revolution from the perspective of the people on the ground in Tahrir Square, whose protesting captured the world’s attention.
“Most Egyptians that I knew were in that square and most of the world saw was that 18 days before Mubarak stepped down, and it was a fairy tale that you could remove a president and change an entire country in 18 days,” The film’s director, Egyptian-American Jehane Noujaim, said during an interview with “On the Radar.”
Noujaim, who is also known for directing the acclaimed documentary “The Control Room,” explained that the remnants of Mubarak’s regime were still intact in the days following the dictator’s departure.
“There were still a few people left fighting in the square for change, because the rest of Mubarak's government still existed,” she said. “The Army was in power, the secret police was still functioning, and they said basically, we need to continue fighting to change this deep state.”
“The Square” is told primarily from the perspectives of three Egyptian revolutionaries: Khalid Abdalla, a British-Egyptian political activist and actor known for his leading role in “The Kite Runner,” Magdy Ashour, a long-time member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ahmed Hassan, an idealistic revolutionary who Noujaim said “represents the youth” of Egypt in the film.
But it was the tragedy of what happened to one of the film’s secondary characters three weeks after Mubarak stepped down that made the film so important to Noujaim’s team.
“Ramy Essam, who is a singer who turns the chants of the revolution into songs of the revolution [was] … cleared from the square and brutally tortured in the Egyptian Museum by the Army,” Noujaim said. “Nobody thought that this was actually possible, that this could actually happen, and so we knew we had a story that we had to follow.”
And even once elections were held and the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Morsi came to power, Noujaim explained, the conditions of a true democracy still did not come to Egypt.
“From the viewpoint of our characters, here was somebody that had come into power and was using the tools of democracy to create another dictatorship,” she said. “One of the first things that he did was to declare that he had powers greater than Mubarak, and so all of our characters were back in the streets basically saying, we will not stand for this.”
The film ultimately concludes with Egypt in its present circumstance, with Morsi now deposed and the Egyptian military essentially holding the reins of power. But, of course, the story of the revolution continues into the present.
To learn more about Noujaim’s documentary, including how the film’s characters view the future of Egypt today, check out this episode of “On the Radar.”
ABC News’ Alexandra Dukakis, Tom Thornton, Melissa Young, and Bob Bramson contributed to this episode.