Faces, Conversations, and Camaraderie in the Egyptian Revolution

Paige Donnelly
Still from the film "Tahrir: Liberation Square," courtesy of Icarus Films.

Tahrir: Liberation Square
By Stefano Savona
Icarus Films, 2012
The revolution documented by Stefano Savona’s “Tahrir: Liberation Square” is not the sexy revolution of the media. Instead, Stefano Savona captures an organic Egyptian revolution – one of patience, uncertainty, and fraternity. The film is shot in Cairo on January 30, 2011, six days after Egyptians took to the streets.
It is clear that the common people of Egypt are the spirit of both the film and revolution. Savona pauses on countless portraits of faces. A skilled cinematographer, he harnesses the raw emotions of doubt and hope in the creases of foreheads and the twinkle of eyes. Politics, old and new, are at the forefront of everyone’s minds. And in addition to the intimate snapshots of faces, Savona unobtrusively films political exchanges between friends. Their conversations range from the abolition of the Egyptian constitution to the ruling capacity of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Eventually, these opinions boil down to one voice; the people want the fall of the regime. The rest of the documentary is filled with camaraderie: infectious chants, cheers, and slogans – repeated, over and over – until the words and sounds become the pulse of Egypt.
As a viewer, the film will be frustrating to watch. The pulse of the movement is both fascinating and contagious. However, the repetitive sounds also give the plot a stagnant and cyclical tone. In place of a storyline, Savona gravitates to the passion of the revolutionaries. He offers little guidance in terms of character backgrounds and narration. He, instead, lets the scenes speak for themselves.
While this technique exhibits the resilience of the Egyptians in Tahrir Square, the film would benefit if it left a trail of breadcrumbs for the audience. In its present format, Savona’s documentary is a series of poignant symbols, rather than a compelling story.
This review appeared in Al Jadid, Vol. 17, No. 64, 2011.
Copyright © 2012 AL JADID MAGAZINE