Oscar-nominated Egyptian director Jehane Noujaim to speak at NU-Q graduation

March 15, 2014 - 5:20:20 am
Doha: Oscar-nominated director Jehane Noujaim (pictured) will be the graduation speaker at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) on May 4, the university has announced. 

Her latest documentary, The Square, is the first Egyptian film to receive an Oscar nomination. The Egyptian-American filmmaker has risen to fame over the past decade, directing documentaries and projects on issues related to the media, democracy and freedom of expression. 

Her 2004 acclaimed documentary, Control Room, featured Al Jazeera and was filmed in Qatar. In the same bold fashion The Square offers engaging, real-life insights into developments in Egypt since demonstrators first took to the streets in January 2011. 

The Square follows the uprising in Tahrir Square, Cairo, the centre of Arab Spring uprisings, and subsequent demonstrations. It won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013. 

Noujaim received the Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature along with co-director Karim Amer.

“In general… it’s a positive look because it looks at friendships that stayed together despite political divides. So we cover from all these angles; we cover personal stories behind the headlines of what it meant to feel and be in the middle of revolution,” Noujaim told Jon Stewart of The Daily Show in an interview. 

Noujaim was born in the US and raised in Kuwait and Cairo before she returned to the US where she attended Harvard University and graduated magna cum laude in visual arts and philosophy. 

As undergrad, she was awarded the Gardiner fellowship, which supported her direction of Mokattam, an Arabic film about a garbage-collecting village near Cairo. 

“In selecting a graduation speaker we seek a person who exemplifies the values of NU-Q and its commitment to freedom of expression. A person whose life and work represents the world of communication, journalism and liberal arts and who connects the Middle East and the Arab world with the US,” said NU-Q Dean and CEO Everette Dennis. “On top of that, we are interested in a person of achievement and career distinction; in Noujaim, we have found such an individual.”

On the impact of films such as The Square and Control Room on the region, he said: “Noujaim’s films, which give voice to different facets of society, continue to influence the region’s outlook on democracy and freedom. She is an exemplary role model for students of someone who is shaping the media in a part of the world that benefits from it.”

Noujaim won the TED Prize in 2006, which grants $100,000 and a “wish to change the world.” With this, she created and organised Pangea Day, an international multimedia event in May of 2008, which drew on a live videoconference and the power of film to bring people from around the world together.  The Peninsula