It is rare that I feel under the weather, not since I started eating a bit better than I did two years ago. So imagine my surprise and annoyance when on Wednesday morning I awoke with a bit of a stuffy nose. I went to work anyway because I didn’t feel so bad (unless you count the ways in which I kicked myself for not having properly kept covered Tuesday night after my trip to the gym. Feeling so much warmth after an hour and a half or working out, I didn’t bother to button up my wool coat or wrap my scarf around my neck. My neck is quite sensitive to cold air so I should have known. Sure enough Wednesday greeted me with a nice I told you so in the form of mild congestion.).
Wednesday night was filled with tossing and turning and frequent trips to the bathroom since I worked hard to keep hydrated. I went to work for half the day Thursday, came home, and made some spicy chicken soup, drank tea, and downed water.
In the middle of all this, I had tissues by my side to combat the stuffed right nostril followed by a blocked left nostril hours later. I napped (or, I should say “napped” because I never fully surrendered to sleep) then started re-watching episodes of The Americans (I’m readying myself for season two, which starts next month).
I also discovered that a documentary released on Netflix was nominated for an Oscar, a first for Netflix. Because it was set for a Friday premiere, I watched the trailer then added it to my list, eager to watch the next day. As I was home from work today, still congested and sneezing and coughing and sniffling, I snuggled up and fired up Netflix.
The Square–that’s the title of the documentary. It begins with what would later come to be known as The Arab Spring that happened in Egypt (and later across countries in North Africa) and its aftermath all the way until last summer when Mohamed Morsi was removed from power. My goodness. I’ve only had a couple hours to digest what I witnessed, but this documentary is powerful.
It’s told entirely from the point of view of Egyptians, which I feel gives it much more weight than if it were told by outsiders. Five people who became friends during the protests in Tahrir Square have access to cameras so we see all from their points of views: Khalid Abdalla, the actor who starred in The Kite Runner; Magdy Ashour, a member of The Muslim Brotherhood; Aida El Kashef, a female activist and journalist; Ramy Essam, a singer and activist; and Ahmed Hassan, an activist. It is this last person who I found myself drawn to. His anger and passion are palpable. His ability to engage in debate jaw-dropping.
To be sure, the other crew in the documentary are no less passionate. There are scenes of Khalid speaking with Anderson Cooper about the stakes in these protests as well as talking with his (Khalid’s) father about the need to agitate. Magdy is torn between his friendships with the activist he met in Tahrir when the country was calling for Mubarak to step down and being a member of The Brotherhood, a group who many in the documentary accuse of hijacking the protests in Tahrir Square for their own political benefit.
The Square is finely shot and doesn’t skimp on the urgency and immediacy of what many Egyptians felt during these many protests. So many moments were purely stunning. I was unprepared for the brutality (protesters being run down by tanks; Ramy with marks across his back displaying the beatings and electrocutions he endured) as well as my reaction to the elation as when it was announced that Hosni Mubarak was stepping down. I teared up seeing Egyptians in Tahrir Square weeping and shouting “Oh my God” that 30 years of rule had finally come to an end.
Though I am still processing the documentary and have many questions–like, how there’s not much talk, if any, that Morsi was removed a year after being democratically elected; or how women played a role and fared during these protests (i.e., sexual harassment). (There are brief moments with Aida, a journalist, but they are not about her as a woman nor are there thoughts about the iconic scene of a woman in a bra being dragged by police officers.)–I plan to watch it again. There’s so much to consider, and though I haven’t seen the other nominated documentaries (Dirty Wars is up next), I so hope that The Square walks away with the golden statue.