Case Study

For my case study I will be analysing the documentaries ‘The Square’ and ‘Banaz: A Love Story’. The reason I decided to analyse these 2 documentaries is because The Square is a documentary about the Egyptian revolution which is a situation that’s been documented that’s very close to what I want to make a documentary about (Syria). The other documentary I’ll be analysing is Banaz: A Love Story which is about a kurdish woman who lives in london and is killed by her own family for choosing a life for herself.

The Square is an Egyptian-American documentary directed by Jehane Noujaim [1]. It’s about the ongoing Egyptian Crisis. The documentary is a participatory/observational documentary. The reason I identified this documentary as this because it has multiple people participating to be part of it and actively engaging with the filmmaker. They’re being observed and followed around during their protests for more than 2 and a half years making it an observational/participatory documentary. It covers the 2 and half years after their former president Hosni Mubarak.

The documentary starts off with one of the main people this documentary focuses on. A young activist named Ahmed. It starts with with a voiceover whilst clips of people fighting the police and protesting against their then president Hosni Mubarak is playing, cutting back and forth to Ahmed, the person talking. He talks about what Egypt was like growing up and how the government has been treating people for more than 30 years. Using his voice as a voiceover was very effective because his view of egypt and it’s politics is one of the dominant voices throughout this documentary, and he’s part of the generation that started this revolution. It gave the audience an idea of what many people in Egypt felt.

It then goes on to Tahrir Square where everyone is gathered waiting for the announcement of their former president Hosni Mubarak to step down. It showed a lot of different people from different political sides united, waiting to find out the future of their country. Once it was announced that he had stepped down, it showed people celebrating. It had this atmosphere of hope and passion. It shows everyone united and celebrating their voices finally being heard. The beginning of the documentary seemed more like an ending. When watching it, it gives you this idea that the rest of the documentary will be about Egypt having a brighter future, except as it goes on it only gets worse. I really liked that about the documentary because it leads you on to make you think that the rest of the documentary will be in a victory like atmosphere, except it takes a completely different turn. It goes from people being hopeful and happy to people being angry and scared. It shows the danger of the army going from being the good guys to the bad guys over night. The army going from standing with the people to being against them.

Another convention that’s very effective about this documentary is it shows a lot of different opinions from people who stand with different groups using interviews. It gives you the view of Ahmed Hassan who represents the youthful revolutionary idealism of egypt, Magdy Ashour from the muslim brotherhood shows you how his political ideas is tested once the brotherhood has power within their grasp, Khalid Abdalla, a movie star who is the son of a political activist who’s lived in exile in england and a couple of other people who aren’t as present in the documentary, but still gives you an important viewpoint. Interviewing these people with different viewpoints, observing them and engaging with them is very effective because it shows you different people’s side. It gives the audience an opportunity to understand where they’re coming from and why they feel the way they feel, and why it’s so difficult to agree on a specific goal.

It also uses very explicit archival footage of protesters being attacked by the army which is very effective because most of the footage is captured by people in the protest, so you can see how hard it is to be there in the moment and having to witness it because it’s very genuine and authentic.

The documentary premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. It was then released on netflix in January 2014.

Banaz: A Love Story is a 2012 documentary film directed and produced by Deeyah Khan [2]. It’s a expository documentary and tells the story of Banaz’s death. The main reason i Identified it as a expository documentary is because it leads the viewer through its narrative with an authoritative voiceover which is a key defining factor for expository documentaries.  

The documentary begins with a voiceover of an interview of a police officer who investigated Banaz’s death. Her voice is put over clips of her sitting on the computer watching videos of Banaz in the hospital trying to explain what happened to her. The police officer talks about how hard it is to put her emotions about cases she deals with aside when she gets home. For the audience this is very effective because it allows them to empathise with the police officer and Banaz immediately. It also quickly sets the tone of the documentary and the audience knows now what it’s about. It then also has a voiceover of her sister talking about her and clips of her dad being escorted by the police. This gives you an idea of what the outcome of the situation was, but still wanting to stay and watch it to see how it came to be like that. The filmmaker Deeyah Khan has an assertive voice over throughout the documentary.

They also use archival footage in the documentary of Banaz. They got security camera footage of Banaz going to the police station to report the abuse she goes through because of her husband and family. This is effective because showing the audience Banaz telling the police what she’s going through makes it more real for the audience and what this girl really has gone through.

Another convention they use is re-enactments of Banaz’s experience but from her point of view. They film Banaz’s escape from her house, drugged, trying to get to safety. They filmed it with a soft focus to give her point of view showing that her vision was blurred. These clips are played out with a voiceover explaining what is happening. This is very effective for the audience because it puts them in Banaz’s shoes, and we get to have an idea of what was happening which allows us to empathise with her.

The film premiered at the Raindance Film Festival in London september 2012 and then re-versioned for ITV’s UK investigative journalism series Exposure.

These 2 documentaries use a lot of similar conventions but are still very different. The Square is observational/participatory documentary, whilst Banaz: A Love Story is a expository documentary. The first documentary (The Square) is filmed for about 2 and half years. The goal of the documentary was to show people what’s happening/happened in the egyptian revolution, and why it’s happening. It isn’t documenting something that has already happened. It’s filmed as it’s happening. It’s very real and in the moment. The filmmaker doesn’t get in front of the camera but they still engage a lot with the people it’s documenting through interviews in the midst of the protest and other events. The second documentary however (Banaz: A love Story) isn’t documenting something that’s happening. It’s documenting something that already has happened. The goal of the documentary was to inform people of Banaz’s story and bring awareness to honour killings in the UK. In this documentary the filmmaker is also interviewing people, but in a very different atmosphere. Interviews in Banaz: A love story looks like it’s filmed in a studio, and is very planned out, but interviews in The Square are more in the moment. Another difference these 2 documentaries have is voiceovers. This convention was used a lot in Banaz: A Love Story, but in The Square it was rarely used.

[1] Al midan (2014) Directed by Jehane Noujaim.

[2]  Banaz: A Love Story (2012) Directed by Deeyah KhanDarin Brindle. 



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