Oscar-nominated documentary The Square has gotten an exclusive YouTube release in its home country of Egypt, despite not yet being approved by official censors. The Netflix-produced film has been geo-blocked by YouTube, so viewers in Egypt will be able see the film, but it will not be accessible in other territories. Directed by Jehane Noujaim, the documentary follows several young Egyptians during the country’s popular revolution that began in January of 2011 and had Cairo’s Tahrir Square as its focal point.
Noujaim’s documentary broke new ground in many ways: it was the first film Kickstarter-funded film to be nominated for an Oscar, the first Oscar nominee produced by a streaming media company (Netflix), the first Egyptian-made movie to be nominated for an Oscar, and Jehane Noujaim was the first Arab woman to be nominated for Best Feature Documentary.
The Square’s release path was very different from most Oscar nominees, which focus on a theatrical release schedule. To qualify for Oscar consideration, a film must have its premiere in a theatrical release and cannot premiere on TV or in another medium. Adhering to that rule, Netflix then chose to do its wide release on its own on-demand platform, rather than pursuing the wider theatrical release that is common in the film industry.
In a statement, the filmmakers behind the doc said, “The Square was born out of Tahrir, and we were a collaboration of over 40 Egyptian filmmakers who made it.
“It was really important for us that Egyptians — the people who have sacrificed everything for this revolution — get to see the official Arabic version of the film at the same quality as the rest of the world. We were finally able to make it happen. So here it is. Hopefully we can watch it together in the square soon.”
The Square lost the Best Feature Documentary Oscar to 20 Feet From Stardom.
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