Oscar Docs ‘The Square’ & ‘Act Of Killing’ Take Political Causes To The People

By | Tuesday February 25, 2014 @ 3:34pm PST

the squareUPDATED: Two politically-charged Oscar-nominated documentaries, Jehane Noujaim‘s The Square and Joshua Oppenheimer‘s The Act of Killing, have taken their awards push to the international stage as balloting closes today, both attempting to effect real world change by reaching the very audience they depict onscreen. Noujaim’s The Square tracks the ongoing Egyptian Revolution of 2011 through 2013 through the eyes of four Egyptians at ground zero and was released theatrically and on Netflix in October. The Sundance Audience Award-winner was blocked from release in Egypt and had been pirated so much internationally that the filmmakers opted to release an Arabic-language stream via Distrify earlier this month. Yesterday Noujaim & Co. went one step further, making The Square available in Egypt for free on YouTube, circumventing censors whose refusal to rule on the pic’s admissibility had prevented a proper release in the country.

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“This is a film that was born in Tahrir Square, by 40 Egyptian filmmakers who all met in the square and quickly saw the dark story that was forming once the international news cameras left. We knew that we had to make sure our story would be told to the world by us,” said Noujaim via email.

“It was crucial to release the film before the Oscars,” she continued. “It is the first nomination for a film from Egypt, and is a voice for freedom and democracy when there have been almost 30,000 people arrested since July, and among them many journalists and activists. The police brutality and killings in Egypt reported by Amnesty in the last 6 months have been unprecedented. In a time when the power structure is trying to white wash history and squares around the world are rising up with people claiming their rights it is crucial to to show the many who continue to fight for basic freedoms that their voices will be heard.”

The filmmakers will continue to try to pass The Square through Egypt’s censors so the the film can be legally released in the country. “It was important for us to continue this effort because this will be a major step in the direction toward support of freedom of speech in Egypt, because it will be the first time the government allows a piece of work to exist whether or not they agree or disagree with what it says,” said Noujaim.

The Act Of Killing OscarsDrafthouse Films’ The Act of Killing similarly encountered obstacles in reaching its subject audience – the people of Indonesia, whose government has historically ignored the acts of death squads that murdered an estimated 1M people in the nation’s politically-motivated genocide of 1965-66. Director Oppenheimer worked for eight years with the families of victims and the perpetrators of the killings which were carried out decades ago but have never been publicly acknowledged by the current regime. Despite the fact that the film could not openly screen in Indonesia, the film’s Berlin, BAFTA, and numerous critics awards propelled the ongoing issue of impunity for these war crimes into the global conversation. The Act of Killing has been seen in thousands of underground screenings in the country and in September, Drafthouse teamed with VICE and VHX to offer a free download geotargeted for Indonesian users; offered on BitTorrent in December, the film was downloaded over 3.5 million times. After the film was nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar, the Jakarta Globe addressed the genocide on its January cover story in which a spokesman for the Indonesian president acknowledged “the issues of our bleak past.” Read More »

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Hot Trailer: Netflix Docu ‘The Square’

By | Tuesday December 17, 2013 @ 8:08am PST

Jehane Noujaim’s The Square snared the Best Feature trophy at the IDA Documentary Awards earlier this month, just days after it made the Oscar shortlist. The film, which also is up for a Spirit Award, chronicles the Egyptian protest movement from the 2011 overthrow of military leader Hosni Mubarak through … Read More »

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‘The Square’ Nabs Best Feature At IDA Documentary Awards; ‘Inside Man’ Best Limited Series

By | Friday December 6, 2013 @ 10:30pm PST

The Square 3Not a bad week for Jehane Noujaim’s film about Egyptian activists battling the establishment. The Square scored the Best Feature trophy tonight at the 29th annual IDA Documentary Awards, three days after it made the Oscar shortlist. The film, which also is up for a Spirit Award, is the first documentary picked up by Netflix. Other winners announced at the ceremony hosted by Paul Provenza at DGA headquarters in Los Angeles included Slomo for Best Short, PBS’ Independent Lens for Best Continuing Series and CNN’s Morgan Spurlock-hosted Inside Man for Best Limited Series. Alex Gibney, who won an Oscar for Taxi To The Dark Side and was nominated for Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, received a Career Achievement Award. Here is the full list of winners at the 2013 IDA Documentary Awards, presented by the International Documentary Association:
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