The Arab Spring and What Comes Next

06/06/2012 4:00 AM |

Tahrir: Liberation Square
Directed by Stefano Savona

As a nose-to-the-ground document of a historical event in the making, Stefano Savona’s Tahrir: Liberation Square certainly has its value, but don’t go expecting revelations. Bringing his camera into the eponymous revolutionary hotbed as protestors demand the abdication of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak, Savona captures the anger, passion and uncertainty of the hundreds of thousands of diverse men and women who thronged the Square in early 2011.

As the Egyptian revolution was a peaceful one, much of the film is given to the endless reverberating chants that represented the voice of the people and there’s an angry, hypnotic power in the continuous repetitions that form at least a third of Savona’s doc. In between, there are anguished, but hopeful testimonies of Egyptian citizens of all ages and more sober discussions about what form the revolution might take.

These last segments, however brief, offer the most retrospective interest, as the euphoria of the revolution has, in the year-plus since Mubarak stepped down, given way to uncertainty, leading up to the now ongoing election. While a young, secular liberal expresses his support for the Muslim Brotherhood, others are more concerned with the direction the country might take should that group seize power. Youthful activists debate the importance of dissolving the constitution, while others simply delight in the diversity of voices joining together for some vague conception of freedom.

And it certainly is stirring. Overhead shots of the Square giving an idea of the sheer numbers alternate with scenes of police firing on the crowd and a determined people refusing to give up. But it’s in the stray discordant moments—an agent provocateur being questioned by the protestors, a young woman troubled by the question of “what’s next?” in the film’s closing moments—that Tahrir hints at the questions that often get ignored in the excitement of revolution. Savona’s film, ever more experiential than analytical, certainly captures that initial thrill; it only fleetingly addresses what might happen when that initial euphoria wears off.

Opens June 11 at the Maysles Cinema