Netflix acquires Egyptian revolution doc “The Square”

The on-demand platform is understood to have fended off a rival offer from HBO to secure Jehane Noujaim's feature doc The Square (pictured), which follows protests in Egypt and scored festival wins at Sundance and TIFF.
November 4, 2013

Netflix has acquired Jehane Noujaim’s Sundance- and TIFF-winning feature doc The Square (pictured), in a deal that will see it launching the Egyptian revolution doc across multiple territories in 2014.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, is being billed by Netflix as the “first major acquisition for its original documentary initiative,” and could mark the arrival of a major new player competing for feature doc rights in the U.S.

realscreen understands from several sources close to the filmmaking team that the filmmakers had an offer on the table from U.S. pay-TV net HBO, but turned it down in favor of the VoD platform’s multi-territory offer. (HBO did not respond to a request for comment at press time).

The news comes after Netflix earlier this year picked up its first Emmy award, for the original drama series House of Cards, and last month announced that it was eyeing several feature docs for potential acquisitions.

The platform also acquired Linda Bloodworth-Thomason’s Tribeca-winning feature documentary Bridegroom earlier this year, in a deal that saw the film launching on the VoD service the same day as it had its U.S. TV premiere on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

In a statement, Netflix’s VP of original documentary programming Lisa Nishimura said: “The Square is documentary filmmaking at the highest level – a beautifully constructed chronicle of brave people struggling against insurmountable odds to make their country a much better place. One knows that history is unfolding on the screen before you when watching The Square.”

The film is currently being qualified for the Academy Awards with a short theatrical run in New York, and earlier this year won audience awards at TIFF in Toronto and Sundance in Park City. It continues its festival run later this month, opening RIDM in Montreal.

The doc shows the story of the Egyptian Revolution through the eyes of young activists, from the protests in Tahrir Square that led to the 2011 overthrow of military leader Hosni Mubarak, through the ousting of his successor Mohammed Morsi earlier this year.

In a statement, director Noujaim said: “Our dream for The Square is to inspire the hearts of as many people as possible and by working with Netflix, we can insure the film reaches a wide and diverse audience.

“Nothing about the making of this film has followed the norms and that’s what makes it exciting. It is crucial for us as filmmakers, who have shot a documentary about people risking and losing their lives for their beliefs, to create a spirit of possibility.”

Netflix will launch The Square next year to its cited subscriber bases of 40 million global members, covering territories including North and South America, the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands and the Caribbean.

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