Netflix made a major splash when it received 14 Emmy nominations this past summer. It was regarded as a major turning point in Emmy Awards history as it became the first non-television entity to gain nominations in major categories. Yet despite the Oscars being considered a more important awards ceremony than the Emmys, Netflix didn’t receive much publicity at all for also grabbing an Oscar nomination. That’s right the Netflix owned The Square received an Oscar nomination this past Thursday in the Best Documentary Feature category. It was a major coup for Netflix as it is trying to create a documentary slate that can go toe to toe with HBO (which received 0 nominations in the Documentary Feature category despite having multiple films shortlisted). Upon viewing The Square it is easy to see why the film garnered an Oscar nomination. It covers in detail a major world event that doesn’t get much coverage in the United States (most likely due to our own government’s connections with some of the antagonists of this film): the revolution in Egypt. Unfortunately for the film, the slow pace of the revolution also ends up influencing the pace of the film as the 95-minute film easily feels like it is over two hours long. While The Square certainly has a lot of important things to say, the film as a whole can get tiresome.
The Square follows The Egyptian Revolution as it grows in Tahrir Square. While success comes early with the ousting of President Mubarek, protestors continue their fight in the square against the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood. The film is directed by Jehane Noujaim (a documentarian who focuses on issues in the Middle-East).
Egypt has been through a rough few years as it has gone through three regime changes in quick succession. This film makes that perfectly clear, and it goes to show you how messy and turbulent the changes within the country have been. The problem with this is that film also becomes messy and overlong itself. It’s great to see the rise of the protesters in Tahrir Square, but then we are just shown scenario after scenario being played out over and over again. It gets quite cumbersome, and ultimately hinders the fascinating and important narrative that this film was made to show.
The Square is ultimately probably the best and most in-depth portrayal of the Egyptian Revolution, and some of the scenes of the Revolution captured in this film are awe-inspiring. Yet it still suffers from being tediously overlong.