When director Jehane Noujaim brought her spectacular documentary on the Egyptian Revolution, “The Square,” to Sundance this year it knocked critics out, and won the Audience Award too (no small feat). But it was also clear that an ending to the story had not quite arrived: A rebellion had toppled the Egyptian government, new elections had been held, and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mosri had risen victorious. But the dust hadn’t settled, and the movie wasn’t over.
TOH! caught up with Noujaim in Cairo this past July, where she was updating her open-ended movie. The updated version hits theaters October 25. Find out more about it, below.
“Been filming with our characters on both sides of the divide every day,” she wrote in July, in as breathless a fashion as email allows. “Things are changing rapidly by the day. We have a complicated but, I think, incredible new ending.”
A few days later, her tone was more sober.
“We are reworking ‘The Square’ with the ending that happens now -- following our secular revolutionary, Ahmed, who is thrilled about what happened on the 30th [the uprising that led to Morsi’s ouster] and we film him thru those events, but he’s very wary about the military involvement.
“Our Muslim Brotherhood character,” she said of Magdy Ashour, “has the feeling that the current unrest is a fight against Islam – we were filming him walking back into the Brotherhood sit-in, saying that he might go home if he knew that the old regime and the secret police (and his arrest) wouldn’t happen. But he doesn’t have faith in that; he’s very depressed, and he is separated from his old friends from the square.’
“I just got a text message from him,” Noujami wrote, “saying he is there to die, and please take care of his kids if anything happens to him.
“It’s all,” she said with ironic understatement, “very intense.”
It was clear in the Sundance version of “The Square” that Noujaim, whose films include “Control Room,” recognized that there were two sides to her story. But she’s not blind either to the developments that have occurred between the Tahrir Square uprising of 2011, and what’s happening now.
“The protests on the 30th were huge,” she said of the June outbreak of the current crisis, “and the president has broken laws, isolated the entire political spectrum that is non-Brotherhood, abandoning the ideals of democracy and the revolution, and if we were in the U.S. he would probably be impeached. All classes were in the streets, and many people that voted for him (and we do not have a legal way to remove the president). On the other hand, the massacre that happened at the brotherhood sit in a couple days ago (where our character Magdy was the night before) was awful.”
"The Square" hits theaters October 25.