Original review featured on the Doha Film Institute website.
Director: Petr Lom
Stars: Wally Hosny, Mohamed Sayyd, Lamiz Ragab, Salwa Hosseiny, Mark Nabil
Running time: 83 mns
“Back to the Square” is a documentary that follows five people, one year after the historical events of Tahrir Square and the fall of Hosni Mubarak. During this post-Mubarak period, thousands of protesters have been unjustifiably arrested and people are still suffering from a military state that seems to implement the a series of injustices against its citizens.
When Wally, a 15-year-old illiterate young teenager, rides his horse into Tahrir Square, on the request of pro-Mubarak politicians, he doesn’t know that this naïve act is about to cost him his life. The results are injuries that force his father to sell his goat to pay for his treatment and lose his horse, when the family is already struggling to live on less than $2 a day.
Mohamed on the other hand, is an ex-convict who was released during the revolution in order to combat protesters. When he refuses to act against his own people, he is physically tortured by members of Mubarak’s regime. Blogger Maikel Nabil, meanwhile, is sentenced to three years in prison for “insulting the ruling military” and “spreading false information”.
Two women, Lamiz and Salwa, decided to break the silence and swim against the tide of ongoing humiliation. Lamiz is seeking the help of human rights associations to free her husband who has been arrested while she was physically harassed. Salwa wants to sue the military for ruining her reputation in front of her conservative village. The armed forces harassed her, tortured her and forced her to undergo a virginity test. It affected her family who is not welcome within the community anymore.
“Back to the Square” serves as a platform of expression for five, very interesting characters who symbolise the daily struggles of Egyptians. Director Petr Lom, who has a Ph.D in political philosophy from Harvard, dropped a promising academic career for a career in documentaries, specialising in human rights subjects. He is best known for his third film “Letters to the President” about the regime of Iranian President Ahmadinejad.
With “Back to the Square”, he showcases a fresh and different perspective of the revolution’s aftermath. The film’s format is simple and direct, presenting each of the stories separately and relying on remarkable characters to narrate current events in Egypt.
The development of the narrative starts with the euphoric feeling of freedom at the dawn of the revolution. Each story progresses as bitter truths and fears are realized by the protestors. The documentary is also a tribute to the brave people who dared to challenge the oppressors. Along the way, they discover what they really want from their country. “Back to the Square” is a wake up call to those who think the revolution in Egypt has ended. It’s only the beginning of a long and tedious battle.