The Square

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Directed by Jehane Noujaim, available now on Netflix

Millions of us were glued to TVs and the internet for the first 18 days of the Egyptian Revolution. We saw the mass demos, the "people demand the downfall of the regime", the Battle of the Camel and the fall of the dictator Hosni Mubarak. There were cameras and phones everywhere recording every glorious or brutal moment. Egyptians understood they were shaking their society to its roots and had to record it.

American-Egyptian documentary filmmaker Jehane Noujaim made this brilliant documentary by following Egyptian revolutionaries over three years, getting them to talk to camera and watching their ideas change in the struggle.

They include Ahmed who paid his primary school fees by selling lemons, Magdy a Muslim Brotherhood activist and veteran of Mubarak's prisons, Khalid an actor and Aida an actor and activist. They are all ecstatic at the fall of Mubarak and argue it's not enough, and we see their mixture of hope and illusions in the army.

The film centres on Tahrir Square, so we don't see the strikes in Egypt's massive factories that forced Mubarak to go. But we are watching a living political school: as the revolution ebbs and flows ideas and their positions change and develop.

It rests on tens of thousands of ordinary people who don't back down when the military fires into the crowd or drives armoured vehicles at speed into them - people who somehow become a thinking, feeling mass of strategy and solidarity.

Footage of people who have lost their fear is often terrifying and the grief and bewilderment of parents and relatives mourning the dead are hard to watch. The army spokespeople are represented too.

The centre of the film is the close, argumentative relationship between Magdy and Ahmed, who is so articulate and critical of the opportunism of the Brotherhood's leadership.

Magdy goes to the Square to defy the military regime even when his own leadership told him not to, but he's torn when millions come out to overthrow the new president Mohamed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader. He wants to believe in Mursi not only because he fears the return of the secret police but because this is what he fought for all the years that the Muslim Brotherhood was illegal.

Egypt's revolution has taught us the dynamics of revolution and its bitter lessons. Now in its most difficult period this film shows us how Egyptians got here by doing the seemingly impossible, and they will fight not to go back.