Jehane Noujaim

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Jehane Noujaim
Born (1974-05-17) 17 May 1974 (age 48)[1]
Washington, D.C.
Alma materHarvard University
OccupationDocumentary film director
Years active1996–present
SpouseKarim Amer[2]

Jehane Noujaim (Arabic: جيهان نجيم, IPA: [ʒeˈhæːn nʊˈʒeːm]) (born May 17, 1974) is an Academy Award nominated American documentary film director best known for her films Control Room,[3], Pangea Day and The Square. In 2019, she co-directed The Great Hack with Karim Amer.


Noujaim was born to a Lebanese father[4][5] and an American mother who was born in Connecticut.[6] She was raised in Kuwait and Cairo and moved to Boston by the age of 10, in 1984.[7][8] She attended Milton Academy.[9]

In 1992, Noujaim matriculated to Harvard University, where she initially intended to study medicine.[6] She later switched to visual arts and philosophy after taking an interest in photography and filmmaking, graduating magna cum laude in 1996.[6][10]



While studying at Harvard University, Noujaim worked alongside her fellow peers towards developing Blue Hill Avenue, about the operations of gangs in Roxbury, Boston.[6] Also during the duration of her degree, Noujaim notably worked under mentor Robb Moss.[11]

In 2002, before her graduation, Noujaim was awarded the Gardiner fellowship under which she directed Mokattam, an Arabic film about a garbage-collecting village near Cairo in Egypt.

Noujaim joined the MTV news and documentary division as a segment producer for the documentary series UNfiltered.

In 2001, she left to produce and direct under the guidance of documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker in association with Pennebaker Hegedus Films. The feature length documentary won the DGA and IDA Awards for best documentary.[citation needed] From collaboration with D.A. Pennebaker and Hegedus throughout her career, Noujaim’s filmmaking techniques take insight from cinéma verité.[12] Noujaim was awarded the Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award in 2004.[11]

She has since worked in both the Middle East and the United States as a cinematographer on various documentaries including Born Rich, Only the Strong Survive, and Down from the Mountain.[13]

In 2004, she directed the feature-length film Control Room, a documentary about US Central Command and its relations with Al Jazeera and other news organizations that covered the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The film showed the unfolding of war through the descriptions and contributions of entities in media outlets.[14] It also displayed information on the impact of skewed information during the Iraq war from different media source's operations and public motives.[15] Noujaim achieves this through live footage from her time in Qatar of the war as well as interviews from news room correspondents.[16]

Through this project, Noujaim wanted to portray images of war and question how viewers perceive them.[16] The mentioned creative approach led her to focus her filmmaking on viewer’s bias grounded in individual characteristics such as cultural background.[16] In a review for Control Room Bill Stamets felt that throughout this creative path, Noujaim who filmed the majority of Control Room herself, never poses her own opinion on the topic in the film’s story or give insight on her personal perception of war.[14] The neutral stream for the film gives little guidance to viewers, prioritizing their interpretation, an artistic choice on behalf of Noujaim.[14] Box office records were broken by Control Room while being screened at Film Forum in New York.[12]


In 2006, Noujaim won the TED Prize for her work in Control Room.[17] This made her the first and youngest woman to do so.[citation needed] She also received a nomination for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Documentary Screenplay, sharing the nomination with co-writer Julia Bacha.[18] In 2007, she co-directed (with Sherief El Katsha) the film which was broadcast as part of the WhyDemocracy project. In 2012 she released Rafea: Solar Mama (which she directed with Mona Eldaeif). A documentary about a group of women leaving their villages to learn about solar engineering, only to return and solar power their own society.


In 2013, she released The Square, a film following the Egyptian revolution and the inspiration it has given to the world.[19] While the film was being shot, Noujaim went missing, being found after an activist brought attention to her disappearance.[20] Also during the duration of filming, Noujaim was arrested on three occasions.[20] The arrests came as a result of accusations Noujaim was a spy, traitor, and for her general participation in protests while in Egypt.[21] During the film’s release period, the piece was withheld from viewers in Egypt due to censorship regulations.[22] In an act to ensure Egyptian citizens saw the film, Noujaim released the film online in addition to the film being pirated in the country.[22] Noujaim claimed this decision was made in strides towards freedom of speech as a filmmaker.[22]

The Square was nominated for an Academy Award in best documentary in January 2014 and is highlighted as the first Egyptian film to earn such credentials.[23] The Square also won critical acclaim in the 2013 Sundance Film Festival & the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.[19] She won the DGA Award for The Square in 2014.[24]

Noujaim contributed to a book in 2016 which included a collection of statements by individuals on their experiences travelling to or visiting global squares.[17] In the text, Noujaim disclosed her experiences and time spent in January 2011 at Tahrir Square.[17] The given location in Cairo is commonly the site of chaos and protests which she expanded on.[17]


In 2019, Noujaim and Amir directed The Great Hack, a documentary film which revolved around the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal. It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2019.[25] It was released on July 24, 2019, by Netflix.[26] Initially, Noujaim and Amir meant out to make a documentary revolving around the Sony Pictures hack, however the film evolved and shifted course as they started looking at how people's minds have been hacked and changed.[27][28][29]

Noujaim and Amir directed The Vow a documentary series revolving around NXIVM and its leader Keith Raniere, which premiered in August 2020 on HBO.[30][31][32] Noujaim previously took a NXIVM course after being recruited by Sara Bronfman.[33]

Pangea Day[edit]

After winning the TED Prize, Noujaim used her wish to organize Pangea Day, a live videoconference that took place in New York City, Rio de Janeiro, London, Dharamsala, Cairo, Jerusalem, and Kigali on May 10, 2008. The show was internationally broadcast over four hours through internet, television and mobile phones. It featured films, speakers, and music. The purpose of the event was to screen the work of filmmakers who created pieces around cultural reflection that posed conversation starters among the audience to unite people globally through film.[34]


Year Film
2000 Down from the Mountain
2002 Only the Strong Survive
2004 Control Room
2012 Rafea: Solar Mama
2013 The Square
2019 The Great Hack
2020 The Vow
Year Award
2001 DGA Award for Best Documentary
2001 IDA Award for Best Documentary
2004 Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award
2006 TED Prize
2014 DGA Award


  1. ^ "جيهان نجيم - ﺇﺧﺮاﺝ فيلموجرافيا، صور، فيديو".
  2. ^ Barnes, Henry (3 June 2015). "Sony hacking saga to feature in cyber-crime documentary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-09-13 – via
  3. ^ Derry, Charles (October 29, 2009). Dark Dreams 2.0: A Psychological History of the Modern Horror Film from the 1950s to the 21st Century. McFarland. pp. 382–. ISBN 9780786433971. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
  4. ^ Solomon, Deborah (25 April 2004). "THE WAY WE LIVE NOW: 4-25-04: QUESTIONS FOR JEHANE NOUJAIM". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2015-05-28.
  5. ^ "Q&A with Jehane Noujaim".
  6. ^ a b c d "Harvard and Other Sports", Newspaper Story, Harvard University Press, 1971, pp. 124–126, doi:10.4159/harvard.9780674421028.c32, ISBN 9780674421028
  7. ^ "Biography". PBS. August 6, 2004. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  8. ^ Appelo, Tim (July 7, 2014). "'The Square' Filmmaker Leaks Oscar Nominee Online, Risking Egypt Censors' Wrath". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  9. ^ "Jehane Noujaim '92, to Address Graduating Class". Milton Academy. April 2008. Archived from the original on December 10, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  10. ^ Chapman, Synne D. (May 14, 2008). "15 Questions with Jehane Noujaim". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2019-10-17.
  11. ^ a b White, Thomas (January 2005). "The Learning Experience as a Career Path". International Documentary.
  12. ^ a b Linden, Sheri (August 2004). "Jehane Noujaim". Hollywood Reporter- International Edition.
  13. ^ Sailor, Craig (February 13, 2015). "PLU to host filmmaker Jehane Noujaim, screen 'The Square' documentary on Egypt". The News Tribune. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  14. ^ a b c Stamets, Bill. “Channeling Democracy: Control Room.” Senses of Cinema, October 2004.
  15. ^ McLellan, Faith (September 2004). "Telling it like it isn't: truth and lies in a post-9/11 world". The Lancet.
  16. ^ a b c Mackinlay, John. "Control Room: Royal United Services Institute for Defense Studies Royal United Services Institute for Defense Studies." RUSI Journal 149, no. 4 (08, 2004): 72-73.
  17. ^ a b c d Marron, Catie (2016). City Squares. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 113.
  18. ^ McNary, Dave (February 15, 2005). "WGA serves up 1st doc kudo to 'Super'". Variety. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  19. ^ a b "Jehane Noujaim 2015". Pacific Lutheran University. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  20. ^ a b "SCENE." Variety, Oct 15, 2013, 69-70.
  21. ^ "Media Help Set Free Arrested U.S.-Egyptian Filmmaker Jehane Noujaim In Cairo". Deadline. November 25, 2011.
  22. ^ a b c Appelo, Tim. “Egypt's Censors Have Yet to Approve of Her Flilm.” The Hollywood Reporter, February 14, 2014.
  23. ^ Dollar, Steve (January 14, 2017). "'The Square' filmmakers capture a revolution — and then an Oscar nomination". The Washington Post.
  24. ^ Appelo, Tim (July 2, 2014). "Jehane Noujaim's "The Square," Netflix's first Oscar nominee -- and the first ever from Egypt -- has found its audience". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  25. ^ "The Great Hack". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  26. ^ Tran-Bui, Hoai (July 13, 2019). "'The Great Hack' Trailer: Netflix Documentary Chronicles Facebook's Great Privacy Scandal". Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  27. ^ Thompson, Anne (August 1, 2019). "'The Great Hack' Terrified Sundance Audiences, and Then the Documentary Got Even Scarier". IndieWire. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  28. ^ Johnson, Eric (July 31, 2019). "Cambridge Analytica made "ethical mistakes" because it was too focused on regulation, former COO says". Vox. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  29. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (June 2, 2015). "Sony Hack Movie in the Works from Oscar-Nominated Team (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  30. ^ Pederson, Erik (April 18, 2019). "HBO Sets Docuseries On NXIVM, Self-Help Group Tied To Sex-Trafficking Case". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  31. ^ "HBO Documentary Series to Look Inside the NXIVM Organization". HBO. April 18, 2019. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  32. ^ "HBO Documentary Series "The Vow," Taking an Inside Look at the NXIVM Organization, Debuts August 23 on HBO". The Futon Critic. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
  33. ^ Miller, Julie (August 20, 2020). "HBO's The Vow Proves NXIVM Is More Than a "Sex Cult"". Vanity Fair. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  34. ^ Ritchie, Kevin (April 2008). "International anthem Pangea Day proposes a better future through film". Postmedia Network Inc.

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