Netflix 'original' documentary lands Oscar nomination

The video service picked festival darling "The Square," a documentary about the Egyptian revolution, as its first "original" film, keen to add an Oscar to its tally of awards.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
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Joan E. Solsman
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A young activist held aloft by Egyptians protesting
Egyptian activist Ahmed Hassan in Jehane Noujaim's documentary "The Square." Noujaim Films

"The Square," a Netflix-backed film about the 2011 Egyptian revolution, secured an Oscar nomination for documentary feature on Thursday, fulfilling the Academy Awards buzz it drummed up at film festivals.

"The Square," which profiles the Egyptian revolution from the perspective of young activists there, was Netflix's first major acquisition in its original documentary initiative in November. In July, Netflix had said it would be widening its original strategy beyond TV series to "broadly appealing" feature documentaries.

"The Square" will be available to Netflix subscribers in all areas starting Friday.

The film won the Toronto International Film Festival Documentary People's Choice Award this year, and an earlier version of it won the Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. It was also screened previously in New York and California theaters to qualify it for Oscar consideration.

The film will be opening in a slew of movie houses across the US -- and in other countries -- Friday, as well as going live on Netflix. While its early screenings were self-financed, funding from Netflix surely helped broaden the release now.

Like "Derek," another Netflix original before it, "The Square" broadens the idea of what an original for the company means. "Derek" and "The Square" were developed, produced, and shown to some audiences before Netflix ever got involved. Netflix has picked up film-festival fodder for its streaming service before, but this is the first time it has branded it as its own.

Earlier this year, Netflix won several Emmys for its original series "House of Cards," and earlier this week Robin Wright won a Golden Globe for her acting in that series.

By taking "The Square" under its wing, Netflix may add an Oscar to its shelf as well.