Thursday, May 7, 2009
Garbage Dreams at SXSW
Definitely a must-see documentary, director Mai Iskander does and excellent job at capturing a personal and intriguing story that revolves around a bigger issue of waste disposal and recycling in the world today.
Garbage Dreams follows the lives of three boys Osama, Adham and Nabil who are Zaballeen. The Zaballeen are the people of the trash village in Cairo, Egypt. As the largest city in Egypt, Cairo does not have a waste disposal system. Therefore, the people of Cairo have come to rely on the Zaballeen to collect their trash. Living in the world's largest garbage village, the Zaballeen are faced with more hardships when the city government contracts a private company to collect trash.
There doesn't need to be fancy shots in this type of documentary. The wide and high-angle shots from rooftops in the garbage village are enough to capture the great masses of trash. We see children playing in an small empty space next to piles of trash several stories high. We see various window openings of buildings with no windows but only trash. In another shot, an older woman is sitting in the middle of a trash pile, sorting it. These incredible static shots allow the viewer to feel as though they are in this town. As cinematographer, Mai Iskander had a good eye in capturing the inconceivable life of the Zaballen. At times, I felt I was smelling the town. It was hard to watch at times, but the personalities and drive the boys carry are riveting.
There is not much I can say about the filmmaking, because the story took all my attention. So, saying that actually says the filmmaking was wonderful. Isn't that what we're taught in film school? The story should drive the audience emotions and keep their attention, rather than calling attention to the filmmaking process.
Erik Mauck attended the first screening of "Garbage Dreams." He filmed the Q&A in which Adham was present.