Egypt’s first-ever Oscar nomination, announced this year for the stirring Tahrir Square documentary film “The Square,” has been bittersweet at home. Jehane Noujaim’s chronicle of the 2011 uprising that shocked the world and set the entire Middle East aflame has been screened in Europe, Canada and the United States ahead of the March 2 Oscar ceremony, but has been unavailable to Egyptians themselves.
Until now. The Netflix documentary, whose Oscar nod is also a first for the video streaming media site, home of other such recent successes as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black,” has subverted both pirates and censors alike by releasing a high-resolution, Arabic-language version to both Distrify and YouTube so that it can be watched online by the Egyptian public whose history it so carefully chronicles.
“@TheSquareFilm is our love letter to #Egypt and it’s finally been delivered. Now it belongs to all Egyptians. I’m so happy!” Noujaim, an Egyptian-American and the first-ever Arab woman to earn an Oscar nomination in the documentary category, tweeted this week.
The film tells the story of Egypt’s January 25 revolution and ensuing chaos through the eyes of four Egyptians: Khalid Abdalla, star of the 2007 film “The Kite Runner” and director of a major Egyptian media collective; Ahmed Hassan, a young demonstrator on the streets; Magdy Ashour, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood; and Ramy Essan, a protester whose singing served as inspiration to thousands.
The YouTube link for “The Square” is exclusive to Egyptians only; users with IP addresses registered in other countries are banned from watching it. But inside Egypt, viewers are logging on in droves, with Noujaim telling the Hollywood Reporter that at least 1 million Egyptians have already streamed the film online.