LOS ANGELES-Three years after Egyptian-American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim waded into Cairo’s Tahrir Square to document the early rumblings of revolution, the army governs Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is back underground and protesters are on trial.

But as her award-winning film “The Square” makes its debut to a wide audience next week via streaming company Netflix’s 40 million subscribers, Noujaim believes Egypt is definitely not back at square one, although it is a dark time in the country.

“Everyone feels like this was an incredibly important process that needed to happen and we will never go back to where we were three years ago,” Noujaim told Reuters. “The whole country,” she added, “has gotten a political education.” For the viewer, “The Square” may be like a crash course in understanding Egypt today, taught by protesters who first started gathering in Tahrir Square in January 2011 to call for the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of rule.

For Noujaim, a 39-year-old who made the acclaimed 2004 documentary “Control Room” about broadcaster Al Jazeera, it was a lesson in patience and figuring out when to wrap the film. When she was at the Sundance Film Festival collecting the audience award for “The Square” a year ago, she already decided she had to go back to Egypt to keep filming.

The “work in progress” screened at Sundance covered the fall of Mubarak and ended with the election of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Mursi as president in mid-2012. But then, activists returned to the streets at the beginning of 2013 and the military deposed Mursi in July. “Mursi was using the tools of democracy to basically create another dictatorship, this time a dictatorship that relied on manipulating people through religion,” said Noujaim. The turn of events, in her opinion, made the story she wanted to tell more interesting.

“It became about the fight against fascism, whether the face of that racism was Mubarak or the military or the Muslim Brotherhood,” she said. In that fight, Noujaim quickly found a cast of characters in Tahrir Square from diverse backgrounds that allowed her to build from the very beginning a character-driven narrative. She had, she said, “the film gods looking down upon us.”

Three characters take center stage: Ahmed Hassan, a working class man in his mid-20s, street smart but struggling to get a job; Khalid Abdalla, a British-Egyptian actor in his mid-30s who starred in “The Kite Runner” and who forms a bridge between activists and the international media; and Magdy Ashour, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in his mid-40s tortured under Mubarak who goes through a crisis of faith about the revolution and the Brotherhood.

“When you are making these films, they are unfunded, we are basically operating on fumes, we are there following people for two to three years,” Noujaim said, adding “so you had better be sharing people who are worth sharing with the world.” Noujaim, who grew up 10 minutes from Tahrir Square, also assembled her crew at the square, knowing that she couldn’t hire people from outside and ask them to take the risks of filming in the middle of the revolution.