Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Recycle! It's Important.

So, I've recently somewhat befriended an American filmmaker based here in London called Engi Wassef, and, with another guy I now know Tyrone Walker-Hebborn, she is working on putting together a film through his Genesis Productions company - it's the spawn of the cinema he owns in neighbouring Whitechapel known, interestingly enough, as Genesis. So, Tyrone is also going to look at distribution, and to that end he has just released Engi's documentary from a couple of years back called Marina Of The Zabbaleen, which I checked out at the premiere, what, a bit over a week ago. As I know the filmmaker, I'm not about to write a proper critical review or give it stars, as I think that's an awkward position. But, I watched it and it's on my film count, so I've got to put something down.

The Zabbaleen are traditionally the rubbish collectors of Cairo, displaced people who would take the rubbish off the streets, sort it and recycle it. As such the rate of recycling in Cairo has been very, very high, especially when compared with western nations. It's quite ingenious really - different groups or families will go after one certain part of the garbage, say, newspapers or aluminium cans. They sort them and then resell them to whatever company will use it, will recycle it. They don't earn much money, but they survived, and they kept everything clean. However, recently the Egyptian government has started giving out contracts for waste disposal to large multinationals, meaning the Zabbaleen are out of work and the garbage is not recycled. Further, with the recent swine flu epidemic, the pigs they used to keep, both to eat and to keep their suburb free of the food waste that was invariably left over from rubbish collection, have been slaughtered, meaning the area has become less sanitary.

The film looks at this (well, the pig thing happened too recently to be included, but it's an interesting fact) and shows you these people, focusing on one family, with special attention paid to one of the daughters Marina who seems to show ability that may allow her to move into fields other than those attested by birthright. It's a very interesting examination of a social and industrial curio that I had no idea existed. Indeed, I doubt most people have any idea this existed. Apparently, despite the fact that the Zabbaleen suburb is quite central in Cairo, many residents have no idea where it is. It is such an ignored, yet extremely valuable part of the Egyptian society, and Wassef has shone a light on it against all of the odds, illegally as it were, without permission and risking her own safety and freedom.

Definitely worth seeing, catch it now at Genesis if you're in London.

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