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Jehane Noujaim on Why She Made ‘The Square’

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Jehane Noujaim

Jehane Noujaim is a New York–based filmmaker whose 2013 Sundance Film Festival selection ‘The Square’ is seeking funding through Kickstarter.

It’s 2013. You have been oversaturated with news of the Arab Spring.

You saw the Egyptian revolution on the news two years ago and experienced 24/7 coverage. Do you really want to see a film that takes you back there—again? Enough of the flag waving, the chanting, the crowds of people. Where did that get anyone? Let me tell you why I think you should give The Square a chance.

When I arrived in Cairo, I was cynical. A bunch of people marching and sitting in a square is going to change something? I had marched against the Iraq War in 2003, joined hundreds of thousands of people in the street, and nothing happened. In Cairo, where anyone could be picked up and arrested or killed for protesting, is a sit-in really going to change something? I was proven wrong. And that challenge to my belief has kept me in the square for the last two years filming with an incredible team of collaborators, most of whom I met here.

I make films because I see something that I believe must be shared with the world—even if it is just a glimpse or a taste of it. The dedicated revolutionaries that are still fighting in Egypt may seem like they’re a world away, but when you hear them and see them, you see that they are closer than you ever imagined. Some words from people I have had the honor of filming and working with for the past two years.

Khalid Abdallah: “A revolution is an act of sight. Like a miracle, it makes visible what seemed beyond the horizon, bringing power structures into focus, reshaping what once appeared indestructible…Those of us who witness the miraculous have a duty to others. The story of what we see no longer belongs to us because it changes everything.”

From Sanaa Seif: “There’s no way to overthrow all of these regimes unless everyone is revolting. Our revolution will never be achieved, in its true goals, unless there is a strong movement in America, because our politics are so related. You relate to the people’s struggle all over, you relate to the people facing brutality anywhere, because they’re going through the same thing.”

If you meet these people, you will intimately understand the struggle in a way that might surprise you. So by making this film we are inviting you to take a look from the inside out rather than what most news gives you—a look from the outside in. Because these are the voices of freedom and they have come so far—don’t let them down. By supporting this story and helping us get it out there, you are staying with courageous people that are reaching for change.

Revolutionary Ahmed Hassan put it best: “We have grown up being lied to. My hope is that if this film is able to reach people widely, we can give people— give our children— the truth. And if they are able to see the truth, they will be able to create a better world”

We hope you’ll join us in finishing this inspiring story, and sharing it with the world.

With only hours left in our Kickstarter campaign, an anonymous backer has offered a very generous incentive during these final, critical moments. Every single dollar donated before the end of our campaign on Thursday, March 7, at 8:09 p.m. will be matched.

Any extra funds that are raised will go toward the amazing team at our office in Cairo who are continuing to capture events as they happen on the ground, and help replace the equipment that was confiscated during filming.

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Sundance Institute Piloting Direct Individual Support for Mediamakers Through the Sundance Institute | Humanities Sustainability Fellowship

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic upended life in general, and halted production and distribution for many creatives, the nonfiction field was plagued by issues of sustainability. For several years, sustainability has been an urgent and vigorous topic of study, debate, and organizing, as more and more filmmakers find it difficult, if not impossible, to make a living solely on the basis of their creative work. 

In Memoriam: Diane Weyermann (1955–2021)

A singular force within the documentary film world with a global reach, Diane Weyermann passed away at age 66 after battling cancer. Over the course of her 30-year career as a funder and an executive, her work elevated the documentary form and expanded its cultural impact.

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